Five simple nutrition tips to bring freedom from stress
Feeling irritable or anxious? Or perhaps you are suffering with headaches, insomnia or depression?
All of these are symptoms of stress – and last year 74% of adults suffered stress to the point of feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope. 46% of these subsequently ate unhealthily, 51% felt depressed and 61% suffered with anxiety1. That’s a lot of unhappy people.
A little stress is a good thing. It heightens your senses and helps you perform at your best. But prolonged stress leads to damaging burn out and physical, emotional and psychological strain that can significantly compromise performance and wellbeing2.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life for most, especially if you are genetically pre-disposed to high levels. Fortunately, nutrition is one of several important tools you have at your disposal to combat the symptoms and bring freedom from stress during intense periods3. Here, we’ve picked out five key dietary adjustments you can make to get back on the path to wellness.
1. Increase Omega-3 consumption 🥑
2. Eat more dietary fibre 🥦
3. Reduce caffeine intake ☕
4. Boost 5 key micronutrients 🍏
5. Limit foods high in fat and sugar 🍬
If your diet is reasonably well balanced but you are still struggling with the symptoms, you may be genetically pre-disposed to higher levels of stress.
31% of people have a genetically increased stress response in the bodybased on 3,000 DNA Nutrition Tests
Your genes produce proteins and enzymes which dictate how your body functions. Tiny differences in these genes, called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) affect the hormones and enzymes responsible for your psychological responses.
For example, variations in your IL-6 and TNF genes can significantly impact cellular inflammation and excessive inflammation plays critical roles in the pathophysiology of the stress-related diseases4.
Keep reading to earn more about how these nutrients can reduce the signs and symptoms of stress. We’ve even hidden a little gift in the content to help ease the burden. 🎁
1. Increase Omega-3 consumption 🥑
Omega-3s are not only essential for brain health and mood but also helps your body handle stress. In a recent study, 3 months of Omega-3 supplementation led to stress resilience, lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reduced cellular inflammation5.
Fatty fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, and sardines are very rich in Omega-3, as are flaxseeds, Chia seeds and walnuts.
2. Eat more fibre 🥦
Dietary fibre decreases inflammation throughout the body, including the brain. There is considerable evidence that brain (and body) inflammation is elevated in people with anxiety and diets rich in dietary fibre may reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, and stress3.
Great sources of fibre include dark leafy greens, bran flakes, chickpeas, brown pasta and broccoli. And if you go with flaxseeds, not only will you include high levels of fibre in your diet, you’ll get the added bonus of high Omega-3 as well.
3. Reduce your caffeine intake ☕
Stimulants such as tea and coffee will give you a temporary energy boost, but consuming too much can worsen anxiety and actually reduce energy levels by impairing absorption of energy-producing nutrients such as magnesium and B-vitamins6,7.
Try reducing your tea or coffee intake by at least 50% and instead mix in non-caffeinated herbal or fruit teas. And of course, aim to drink at least 1-1.5 litres of filtered water throughout the day.
11% of people are 'very slow metabolisers' of caffeine, taking four times longer to clear caffeine from their system than others. If this is you, we recommend you not exceed 200mg per day (about 2 strong coffees)
You may also have a genetic sensitivity to caffeine. If you do, try not to exceed 200mg per day – which is about two strong cups of coffee. Watch out for other caffeine containing foods as well, like dark chocolate which can contain about 12mg for every 28 grams.
4. Boost 5 key micronutrients 🍏
Stress increases the body’s metabolic needs and increases the use and excretion of other nutrients.
Chronic stress affects the body’s use of calories and nutrients. Stress has a profoundly negative effect on the body's nutrient stores. The adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, take the brunt of our stress.
- B-Vitamins8,9 can help to support adrenal function, particularly Vitamin B5 which directly supports adrenal health and hormone production. Sources include wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
- Vitamin C10 found in most fresh fruit and vegetables. It is stored in the adrenal gland and is required to make cortisol.
- Vitamin D11 also plays critical roles in mental health and stress regulation. Low levels are associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression.
- Magnesium12 is dramatically depleted in times of stress, and symptoms of deficiency often include fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and predisposition to stress. Include plenty of dark green leafy vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds.
- Zinc13 like magnesium is depleted in times of stress. Meat, poultry and seafood are rich sources of Zinc, but vegans may need to supplement as primary sources legumes and wholegrains also contain phytates that lower zinc absorption.
5. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sugar 🍬
Cravings for processed and sugary foods may be heightened when you are feeling stressed, but it is important to avoid consuming these in high quantities. Greater levels of perceived stress were associated with higher fat intake levels in this recent study.
Not only can they be unhelpful to your overall health, but they can also make you feel worse in the long term.
Sugar, for example, will provide a short burst of energy and temporary relief from stressful feelings, but this will be swiftly followed by a 'low' period when your blood sugar levels dip.
This can lead to irritability and increased food cravings, which can put a strain on the body.
Claim your free 15-minute call with a NGX nutritionist
If you would like to understand how you can help combat high-stress levels with diet and lifestyle management changes, you can book a completely free 15-minute call with one of our Registered Nutritionists right here.
For an easy way to incorporate the above nutrition into your diet without taking lots of pills, you may want to try personalised NGX BodyFuel. Your shake is high in protein and contains your personal need for all 26 essential vitamins and minerals. It includes all the above stress-relieving nutrients (fibre, Omega-3, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, and magnesium) and is free from caffeine, sugar and unhealthy saturated fats.
If you would like to understand your genetic predisposition towards stress, take a DNA Nutrition Test.