Various levels of stress are experienced by almost everyone at some time or the other, due to a number of factors. While a number of remedies and solutions are offered to alleviate stress, one of the simplest and most effective means is to pay attention to the diet and include items that control stress and prevent the inevitable damage caused by it.
Link Between Stress and Health
The mind and body are linked, so mental stress activates the adrenal glands, which in turn produce cortisol, enabling the body to cope with the stress. However, stress can lower the immunity of the body and thus cause serious diseases. This is because stress hampers the working of the digestive system, so the body cannot absorb nutrients essential for good health. Moreover, key nutrients like antioxidant vitamins A and C, vitamin B complex, proteins and magnesium are burnt up faster during times of stress, robbing the body of immunity and nutrition.
Antioxidants Required During Stress
Stress leads to an increase of free radicals in the body, which damage cell structure and cause diseases like cancer. Therefore, it is necessary to take antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and safeguard the body from serious, degenerative conditions.
Since antioxidant vitamins A and C are depleted during stressful times, they need to be replenished. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant important for the brain tissues, and therefore, used up very quickly in times of stress. Therefore, vitamin C rich foods that need to be taken especially at such times include green leafy vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes and citrus fruits like oranges. Vitamin A has anti-cancer properties, and is found in foods like carrots, tomatoes, apricots, melons, some green leafy vegetables, oily fish and egg yolk. It is also required for healthy skin, hair and eyes, which are affected by stress. Vegetable and fruit juices are especially rich in antioxidants which prevent stress related conditions.
Bioflavonoids are also antioxidant and anti-cancer, and found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Polyphenols found in green tea fight not only cancer, but heart disease and other stress induced conditions.
Other Foods that Combat Stress
Stress can be eliminated only when the root cause is addressed, but it can certainly be alleviated and its ill effects reduced by including or increasing intake of certain food items.
Fruits have not only antioxidant properties, but also other nutrients and simple sugars that raise levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter with soothing properties.
Proteins lost during stress can be made up by taking animal sources like meat, egg and fish, and dairy products, while plant sources include beans, sprouted seeds, beans, grains and nuts.
During stress, magnesium is drained from the cells, leading to fatigue. Therefore, it is important to include more of green vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, legumes and milk.
Other items that help during stress are sunflower seeds and sprouts, especially alfalfa. Yoghurt has vitamins A, D and B complex, which have soothing properties.
Herbal teas, especially chamomile tea, are relaxing and induce sleep, thus alleviating stress. Teas made of sage leaves and rose hips are also soothing. A number of herbs, including the holy basil, are used in ayurveda (the traditional Indian system of medicine) to reduce stress. Warm milk with honey and cinnamon or just honey in hot water are popular home remedies.
Stress can be alleviated and controlled by including certain foods in the diet, or increasing their quantity during times of stress. Fruits, vegetables and other antioxidant rich foods, proteins and magnesium are some of the items that are effective in combating stress naturally through the diet.