Everyone experiences stress from time to time, and we all have our own ways of dealing with it. Some of us might take a soak in a hot bath to relax tense muscles, while others go for a vigorous workout to release frustration. But what you eat, and even how you eat it, can also help you to deal with the stress in your life.
Stress burns up nutrients, especially vitamin C, the B vitamins and magnesium. Getting plenty of those will not only keep you healthy, but actually help you to deal with stress better. Vitamin C is needed for immunity, which may explain why you’re more likely to get infections when you’re stressed. Protect yourself by eating plenty of fruit and veg, especially blackcurrants, citrus fruits such as oranges and vegetables from the cabbage family such as broccoli, kale and rocket. Satsumas and other small oranges are useful for a quick boost between meals, or as a healthy dessert.
You need to keep your energy levels up to deal with stress, and that’s where the B vitamins come in. The good news is that these are found in a whole range of natural, healthy foods, such as lean red meat, oily fish, nuts, lentils and avocadoes.
You also need to be able to relax though, both physically and mentally. Magnesium is key here – without enough magnesium it’s impossible to relax properly, and you may start to suffer from cramps, twitches and palpitations as muscles go into spasm. The best sources are green leafy veg, nuts and seeds. Carry a packet of nuts with you for an easy nutrient-dense snack on the go, rather than relying on crisps or biscuits.
If your food choices are limited, for example if there’s only fast food on offer, it’s worth knowing that how you eat is just as important as what you eat. Eating mindfully creates a chance for you to relax and recuperate for a little while. This just means noticing and enjoying the flavour and texture of your food and chewing each bite thoroughly. This slows you down for a few minutes in a hectic day and moves your body out of fight or flight into ‘rest and digest’ mode for a while.
No matter how stressful things are, you have to eat. So eat in a way that helps you to stay healthy and keep a smile on your face.
Herbalist and Nutritionist