Nutritional therapist Henrietta Norton reveals six of the best foods to help support your body in stressful times
There is no doubt that many of us lead life in the fast lane and expect our bodies and minds to keep up. But, what is often forgotten is that just as a car requires regular servicing and the correct fuel to drive the distance, your body needs the same level of care and attention. This is both in the form of ‘fuel’ (i.e. food) and also in the form of restorative ‘servicing’ or self-care. Without these two aspects, we simply can’t produce the currency our body needs to support the level of demand that we put on it.
Eating to support most areas of health involves having whole, unrefined, unprocessed foods that are nutrient-rich, and when you are feeling stressed this is no different. In fact, when our body is working harder to maintain balance – whether as a result of physical injury or psychological stress – our internal stress management system requires a greater supply of certain nutrients found in foods. Below are a just a few of these foods that can help your body to weather the storm efficiently.
Eggs are a rich source of nutrients such as iron and B12 which support normal energy production and the health of your nervous system. They are also power-balls of protein, helping to slow down the breakdown of foods and the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream so that energy lasts for longer. As well as this, eggs and other sources of protein provide key amino acids needed to repair damage caused by stress.
Pulses such as lentils and chickpeas are rich in the B vitamin family. These vitamins are essential for energy production and for the normal functioning of the nervous system. Vitamin B5 in particular helps control the production of the glucocorticoid hormones in the adrenals, such as cortisol.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium which is essential for energy production and for the normal functioning of our adrenal hormones. It is quickly used up when we are stressed. Seasonal green leafy vegetables are also a rich source of magnesium so build in these on a daily basis too. If sleep is an issue then taking an additional 80mg of magnesium (such as Wild Nutrition’s Food-Grown Magnesium) at night can be a great support.
Seasonal berries such as blackberries, strawberries and raspberries are rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Vitamin C is another nutrient that is vital for the manufacture of adrenal hormones which support our management of stress. Other sources include peppers, kale, broccoli, watercress and red cabbage.
Micro-algae such as chlorella provides a wide range of nutrients, including those mentioned above, and are easily absorbed because they need little processing by the digestive system.
The fermentation process yields a number of benefits including lactic acid bacteria lactobacillus brevis or lactobacillus plantarum that have a functional role in digestion as well as the production of B vitamins. A growing body of research is demonstrating that the health of our gut bacteria may play a central role in our ability to manage stress and anxiety. Therefore keeping a healthy balance and diversity of gut bacteria by the regular consumption of foods that support it may well be more important than we once thought.
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