Eating well might be something that is usually associated with avoiding heart disease, diabetes. However, the food we eat also has a bearing upon our mental health (Ross, 2013).
Taking care of mental health requires a holistic approach: therapy, exercise, eating right, forming habits that work uniquely for your situation are ways in which one can move towards better and improved mental health.
Food does however, play an integral role in affecting our moods. For example, vitamin D, deficiency can cause depression. Our diet can make a real difference towards alleviating symptoms that cause distress (Archer, 2013).
Here, we take a look at foods that affect our levels of stress.
When we are feeling stressed, we often turn to food, specifically, comfort food. This is the body's way of attempting to feel better and this type of eating is is known as ‘stress eating or emotional eating’.
Certain foods help increase the production of neurotransmitters such as Serotonin, Norepinephrine and Dopamine that are responsible for improving our moods and inducing a sense of well-being. Some neurotransmitters can also help bring down the levels of a stress hormone called cortisol, causing a reduction in stress levels.
The following list consists of nutrients (and foods) that help reduce stress levels –
- Complex Carbs: Are known to improve serotonin levels in the body. These also help in keeping your blood sugar stable by releasing sugars slowly and steadily.
Sources: Whole grains such as roti, brown rice, oats and millets like jowar, ragi and bajra.
- Vitamin B Complex: Vitamin B1 is known to have an effect on your mood, it is known to be a mood enhancer. Vitamin B12 deficiency can trigger depression if left untreated.
Sources: Green leafy vegetables, legumes, oranges, brown rice, nuts, eggs, beef (limited amount) and chicken.
- Omega 3 fatty acids: Omega 3 are a type of essential fatty acids (these are not produced in our body, so they need to be consumed through diet). These are known to help improve mood, concentration and also reduce stress and anxiety.
Sources: Fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, eggs, flax seeds, walnuts and avocados.
- Tryptophan: This is a precursor to Serotonin, and helps you calm down. However, the effects of it may not be seen immediately like a medicine's would be.
Sources: Oats, bananas, soy, nuts, sesame seeds, milk and chicken breast.
- Magnesium: Magnesium deficiency may affect your energy levels and mood too. Making sure you eat all the foods rich in this mineral to help you stay energetic and calm.
Sources: Spinach, tofu (soy paneer), black beans.
- Vitamin C: This vitamin is one of the strongest antioxidants, and can help bring down the stress hormone cortisol.
Sources: Oranges, guava, amla, all other citrus fruits and capsicum.
Foods that can hinder your efforts for reducing stress, and so need to be avoided as far as possible –
- Sugars: Simple carbs such as table sugar, drinks containing high quantities of sugar, foods containing maida, pastries, ice-creams can all give you a sugar rush. However, the faster your sugar levels rise (to give you a high and a feel-good factor), the faster it comes down due to increased insulin production. This can be harmful for your stress and anxiety levels.
- Caffeine: Caffeine is known to boost your energy, but it also tends to lower the levels of serotonin in your body. This can further affect you if you are already feeling stressed or anxious.
- Alcohol: Many people resort to consuming alcohol when depressed. It can lift your mood temporarily, but can prove to be a depressant in the long run. It is also known to have a diuretic effect on our body, leaving you dehydrated and irritable.
To learn more about ways in which you can manage your diet and nutrition to take better care of your mental and physical health, please call 1800-270-1790.
- Archer , Dale . "Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression | Psychology Today." Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. 11 Jul 2013. Web. 18 Jan 2018. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/reading-between-the-headlines/201307/vitamin-d-deficiency-and-depression>.
- Ross, C.C. (2013, January 29). Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist. Healthy Gut, Healthy Mind: 5 Foods to Improve Mental Health | Psychology Today. Retrieved January 18, 2018, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/real-healing/201301/healthy-gut-healthy-mind-5-foods-improve-mental-health