As the COVID-19 outbreak continues to overpower the world, stress too is spreading like a fire. And often, breathing exercises or Yoga steals the spotlight when it comes to stress-relieving measures. It’s not that they aren’t good with stress. But, a lot of people often forget about food as a natural stress-buster option. A senior scientist at Abbott recommends that a healthy diet can act as a long-term remedy to manage stress efficiently.
However, during a lockdown, building a healthy eating routine won’t be too much to ask. So, before we jump onto finding different food choices suitable to lower down the stress levels, let’s give a moment to find out the science behind your food’s mood-boosting abilities.
How Does Healthy Diet Reduce Stress Levels?
Science confirms that when our bodies are hit by stress, our brain triggers the body to generate a lot of energy. And for that, we often turn to high-sugary foods or fats to obtain this quick energy. Guess what? If you switch to healthy meals under stress, it can help tame your stress in several ways. For example, a bowl of oatmeal will boost the levels of serotonin in your brain. While a few other food choices would cut down the levels of cortisol or adrenaline. There are cases where a healthy diet acts as a protective shield by boosting your immunity.
Scientists believe that nutrients present in a healthy diet can help manage stress quite easily. For instance, nutrients like Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA or DHA), vitamin E, and polyphenols found in blueberries and dark chocolate can improve blood flow in the body. Consequently, it will enhance the delivery of essential nutrients to the brain. And if you combine food with physical activity, the effects will be much higher than you can imagine.
Another theory that works around food as a stress buster is its strong link with digestive health. Research suggests that the gut microbiome can influence your brain’s functioning. So, one can support its health by consuming fiber-containing foods such as beans, vegetables, and yogurt. Sometimes prebiotics can be a great addition to your gut health.
Food Choices That Will Help You to Relieve Stress
There is no fixed timeline as to when COVID-19 would end. So, a lot of factors might stress you out. Unfortunately, if you don’t work on it, your immune system might lose its efficiency to fight away infections. Without a doubt, you need your immunity to be at a top-notch right now. So, going for immune-boosting food choices that also lower down your stress levels would be a great idea. It’s simple. A little effort in your food choices will help you during this time of fear and stress.
Don’t forget; it’s easier to work on your nutrition than stressing about the ongoing COVID-19 attack. The following food choices can help you precisely with that.
- Consuming the right carbs will help you to cut down your stress levels. According to MIT, carbohydrates increase the levels of serotonin. It is a type of neurochemical that improves your mood. So, you can go for sweet potatoes, whole grains such as bread, quinoa, brown rice to alleviate your stress levels.
- It’s no surprise that stress can impact your heart’s health. Fatty fish can boost your mood and, eventually, your heart’s health. It’s because it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids. According to a Sept 2015 review, fishes like tuna, sardines, or salmon can immensely reduce your stress levels.
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, or raw fruits or veggies are a powerhouse of stress-busting ingredients. They help to regulate the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Plus, these options have high folate content, which plays a vital role in the production of the feel-good hormone, dopamine.
- Studies suggest that foods rich in Vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and bell peppers will support your immune system. Other than that, going for zinc-rich food choices such as cashews, liver, beef, egg yolks will improve your virus-fighting abilities.
- Stress might quickly deplete your magnesium levels. So, consuming legumes, whole grains can help you feel calmer.
Other than these food choices, you can also find relief from stress with dark chocolate. This occasional treat will help in two ways. First of all, the feeling of eating chocolate alone helps you to reduce stress. And then, it’s antioxidants, and polyphenolic content can help to lower the levels of stress hormones in your body. A Swiss study found that 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate every day for two weeks helped the respondents reduce their stress levels.
Switch to Mindful Eating For Consuming Healthy Choices
It’s easy to crave junk or processed food amid the lockdown. Yet, healthy food choices will multiply your energy levels, both personally and professionally. So, make a schedule or a daily meal plan to stay right on the track. You can even share recipes or use Skype or Facetime to cook a healthy treat together virtually. Always plan before buying groceries. That way, you can avoid choosing high-sugar or salty snacks. Stock your refrigerator with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. And while doing so, you can pick a cheat meal day to enjoy a weekly treat for yourself.
If nothing helps to tone down your stress levels, it would be best to see a specialist for online doctor consultations. The doctor might prescribe you some medications. Or recommend alternative methods to manage your anxiety and stress.
The current COVID-19 pandemic is creating a stressful environment. Subsequently, it’s impacting our immune system too. Remember, there are many ways to beat stress. But, food can be your biggest ally to fight this demon of stress. Not to mention, stress alone can increase your body’s need for essential nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin B, and magnesium. Research confirms that the amount and quality of your food impact your body’s neural circuits. These circuits control emotions, mood, motivation, and other psychological factors.
So, if you want to prepare yourself for the big fight ahead, healthy food choices would help to ward off infections and illnesses. However, meal planning for a family might be a bit challenging initially. But, if you involve everyone in the discussion and preparations, I am sure you can reach a consensus. Meanwhile, stay home and stay healthy to halt the spread of this virus.