The lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic is said to be the world’s biggest psychological challenge. With finances becoming harder now, many people are stressed about what to eat and how to pay their rent yetthey have not been working or lost their jobs.
Different people react to stress differently. Some people may fail to eat when they are stressed while others react by eating a lot of food. Both extremes are dangerous and are likely to wreak havoc to the body.
If you are the kind that does not eat when you get stressed, try as much as possible to establish a routine for your meals. Cook your food (no takeaways) and remember to have someone around mealtime as a morale booster.
According to Lydia Pedun Aisu, a nutritionist, in the event that you eat a lot when you are stressed, “the rule of thumb is to try as much as possible to make healthier food choices and remember to avoid junk, sweet and oily foods. If you cannot avoid them, try to have them in moderation to avoid weight gain, which also increases your risk of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and diabetes,” she says.
Coloured fruits have a good calming effect. For example, when you are anxious, try eating a crunchy apple. Blueberries are a rich power source for antioxidants. In this time when you feel stressed, they should definitely be part of your diet.
“Blueberries produce dopamine, a stress-fighting chemical. They can be eaten plain or added to yoghurt,” says Aisu.
“Most limes and vitamin C-rich fruits such as oranges, lemon and limes are a great way to lower stress levels. This is because they do not only improve the immune system but also reduce the level of cortisol, a stress hormone. Increased cortisol levels cause fatigue and anxiety,” she adds.
Avocado is also a great source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which can aid weight loss because it makes you feel satisfied for longer. Additionally, most fruits also help curb the sweet tooth and sugar cravings that are associated with stress.
Seeds and nuts
Dr Paul Kasenene, a nutritionist, remarks that chewing seeds is one of the healthiest options when you are stressed. They contain good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which are healthy fats. Most seeds also contain magnesium, a mineral that helps alleviate depression, fatigue and irritability.
Nuts also contain zinc, which is said to improve your mood while calming an anxious person.
Seeds such as sunflower, flax, chia and sesame can be added to your yoghurt or salads or can be eaten plain. Peanuts, cashews, and other nuts can also be helpful.
When stressed, you may have an urge to sip some hot tea because most teas are said to have a calming effect. Depending on your choice, you can choose from the variety of herbal teas that are available. Chamomile, green tea, and black tea have this effect.
Vegetables are healthy foods for the brain because they help in the production of calming chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Leafy vegetables such as spinach contain folate, a mineral that produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing chemical in the brain that relieves stress.
Lack of folate in the body also triggers mental fatigue, forgetfulness, confusion, and insomnia. Other vegetables that are rich in folate include asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruit, Brussel sprouts and chickpeas.
“Milk is a rich source of vitamin D. Most people who have a deficiency in this vitamin are likely to become anxious and stressed. Drinking a warm glass of milk before bed will help you sleep easily and is a great way to reduce stress. Also, milk contains lactium, a type of protein that helps the body relax by lowering blood pressure. The potassium also helps your muscles to relax,” Aisu says.
A 2010 study from Columbia University revealed that people who inhaled a whiff of coconut saw a drop in their blood pressure, and they experienced less stress while completing a challenging task.
Why not add some coconut flakes to your morning smoothie, or even bake something coconut-filled? It is good for your health, after all.