During times of stress, your body will tend to use up reserves of stress-busting nutrients such as Magnesium, Zinc and Antioxidants, so topping up those stores will help your mental wellbeing and help you cultivate a calm, more resilient approach to stresses in your life.
Look to include these top five nutrient-rich foods when you are experiencing stress:
- My all-time #1 food - dark green leafy vegetables. Magnesium plays a vital role in reducing stress and is the ‘calmer’ of the mind and body. Magnesium relaxes tension and aids sleep. This nutrient can be found in whole grains, spinach, green leafy vegetables, quinoa and dark chocolate. Try incorporating a green leafy salad or steamed green vegetables with each evening meal.
- Zinc is responsible for hundreds of enzymatic functions within the nervous system, immune system, skin and gut. With prolonged stress, your body can become severely depleted in zinc, and may struggle to absorb it. Some foods that contain zinc include meat, shellfish, legumes and eggs. A simple addition is a handful of pepitas or pumpkin seeds each day either on their own, sprinkled on food or incorporated into a nut and seed trail mix.
- The word ‘antioxidants’ has become trendy but they are far from a fad. Antioxidants inhibit oxidation and mitigate the damage caused by free radicals. Foods high in antioxidants to include are small amounts of dark chocolate, berries and kale.
- B vitamins can be found in whole grains such a brown rice, barley and millet. Green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, eggs, meat, legumes and nuts and seeds are also good sources.
- Protein supply us with amino acids, the building blocks for our neurotransmitters. Try to add protein to each meal when feeling stressed. Fish is a fantastic brain food, especially oily fish with good levels of essential fatty acids is a great choice. Think sardines, herring, mackerel and wild caught salmon.
A suggested day’s diet
Breakfast – Overnight Oats
Oats are a nourishing, supportive food and great for the nervous system. Oats can be added to smoothies, made into porridge, muesli or overnight oats. See recipe below for a blend with chia seeds and blueberries.
Morning Tea – A handful of nuts and seeds trail mix
Lunch – Sardines with brown rice
Lightly pan fry sardine fillets with lemon juice and olive and serve with a side of brown rice, sautéed mushrooms and spinach and a poached egg. Or for a vegetarian option swap the egg and sardines for home made baked beans.
Afternoon – A small serve of dark chocolate
Dinner - Salmon fillets with leafy greens and a side of sauerkraut
Sear salmon fillets in a pan with coconut oil and a dash of sesame oil, then sprinkle with sesame seeds and chilli flakes. Serve with steamed broccoli, kale and dandelion and rocket leaves.
Add a side of sauerkraut to boost the gut bacteria which generate our B vitamins and short chain fatty acids, and positively affect our stress and sleep.