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Dietary Changes To Reduce Stress

24 April 2022

Living With Stress

We all live with stress to varying degrees, whether that be going through a particularly emotional few months, or facing exhausting deadlines at work. In many ways, stress is unavoidable - or rather, stressors are unavoidable. We will likely all encounter situations in our daily lives that can cause stress and anxiety. But, between learning how to manage our responses to these stressors, and learning to limit our general anxiety levels, we can make living with stress much easier.

Meditation, good sleep hygiene, and optimising your living and working environments to be calming, nurturing spaces can be great steps to reduce our general anxiety levels. Alongside this, your diet can be one of your biggest weapons against increasing stress levels, and maintaining generally strong mental, emotional, and physical health. If can be easy to forget, but the choices we make regarding the food we eat can actually make a huge difference to our wellbeing - whether that’s from improved immunity from increasing intake of foods high in vitamins and minerals, increased energy from eating more carbohydrates, or fewer aches and pains from eating more oily fish and healthy fats. Let’s take a look at how your diet can be specifically utilised to reduce stress and help manage anxiety.

Switch From Coffee To Tea

Many of us love a strong cup of coffee to get the day started - but it might be worth considering a switch to tea if you’re looking to reduce stress and improve your management of anxiety. Whilst both hot beverages contain caffeine, which helps us focus but can also lead to anxiety in high amounts, tea is also high in the non-protein amino acid, L-Theanine.

L-Theanine is known to have powerful stress-relieving properties, and is part of what makes tea so integral in helping us wind down after a long day. Whilst green tea and matcha are particularly high in L-Theanine, as well as a high amount of antioxidants, standard black tea can also give a healthy dose of L-Theanine if you’re still craving some kind of caffeine hit.

Increase Foods With High Anti-Inflammatory Properties

Foods that reduce inflammation in the body reduce levels of cortisol, the primary hormone responsible for stress. Whilst cortisol is useful within the body - triggering a response in us when we need to take action to deal with an urgent stressor - over prolonged periods of time, cortisol can actually worsen stress levels and increase anxiety in the body. Foods with strong anti-inflammatory properties include those high in B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium, such as:

  • High in B12: beef, chicken, or nutritional yeast, foods
  • High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: fish, avocados, or chia seeds
  • High in Magnesium: bananas, broccoli, dark chocolate, or spinach

Add Fermented Foods Into Your Diet

Whilst not necessarily a staple in Western diets, fermented foods are packed with beneficial bacteria, and high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and probiotics that all maintain a regulated immune system, including a well-regulated nervous system.

Scientific studies support the causation between increased intake of fermented foods and fewer symptoms of anxiety, as well as regulating generally positive mental health. This is thanks, in part, to probiotic interactions within the gut - an area that is known to have a large influence on mood and hormone release.

To broaden your horizon and regulate your mood, you could look to incorporate kimchi, sauerkraut, or kefir into your diet. Kimchi is an Asian fermented vegetable dish, incorporating napa cabbage and daikon, a type of radish, to create a refreshing and slightly sour salad type dish. Sauerkraut is a traditional German cabbage dish, a great compliment to salads or meat-based meals, whilst kefir is a fermented milk drink, originating from North Causcaus, with a creamy and slightly salty taste.

Add Garlic To Your Sauce Base

Onions are often used as a base for sauces in a variety of dishes - but don’t forget the garlic. Onions themselves are high in vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients - but garlic has been found to be particularly helpful in managing stress and lowering cortisol levels in the body.

Thanks to a high level of sulfur compounds, garlic can help increase levels of glutathione in the body - an antioxidant that is part of your body’s first line of defense against stress. The complex compounds within garlic have also been suggested in animal studies to directly help combat stress and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.