Stress is the body’s response to anything that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Over time, long-term stress can have a long-lasting health impact on the body. Hence, stress creates greater physiological demands, wherein, more energy, oxygen, vitamins, and minerals are needed. Ironically, people exposed to stress should consume a nutritionally dense, plant-based diet but often prefer to consume comforting foods they crave, such as sugary or fatty foods. Below are discussed a few plant-based diets which can be consumed by vegetarians and non-vegetarians. Moreover, foods to avoid when stressed are also mentioned.
Foods to consume when stressed
Avocados are not only delicious but also have a positive impact on mental health. Avocados
contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce stress and anxiety, increase concentration, and improve mood. Moreover, avocados contain a certain amino acid that works with dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for reward, pleasure, and motivation.
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, turnip, and a few more are excellent for managing stress and anxiety. Leafy greens are rich in magnesium which is a stress buffer and has a calming effect on the mind. Research has shown that people low on magnesium have high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) which is associated with high levels of stress and increased risk of depression.
3. Complex Carbs
Complex carbs such as whole-grain bread, oatmeal, cereal, quinoa and more, releases serotonin which elevates mood and reduces stress. Additionally, complex carbs have fibers and so take longer to digest and have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar. Whereas, one should avoid simple carbs (e.g., pasta and white bread) as it digests faster and spike blood sugar, messing with moods and stress.
Foods to avoid when stressed
1. Refined Sugar
When stressed, the body release cortisol which helps to manage stress and blood sugar. Hence, when sugar is consumed, during stress the cortisol level is elevated which in turn spikes the blood sugar levels. A rapid increase in blood sugar levels can cause unbalance emotional states including, stress anxiety, and fear. Increased cortisol can also cause sleep issues, decreased immune response, headaches, and unhealthy food cravings. Refined sugar (candies, chocolates, pastries) can be replaced by natural sources of sweetness, such as fruits, berries, raisins, dates, etc.
Caffeinated drinks can also increase cortisol levels, which can prepare oneself for the task at
hand. However, excess caffeine can inhibit the absorption of vitamin D and B which are required for boosting mood. Moreover, caffeine can cause disturbed sleep which can lead to fatigue-induced stress.