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With some parts of the world happily readying for life after Covid-19 and massive vaccination campaigns, other parts are still very much going through their second or even third waves of the pandemic. This can take a heavy toll on the brain and psychology of an individual. Additionally, many people may find themselves either alone at home, unable to maintain a proper healthy diet due to lockdown constraints or demotivated due to the pandemic situation. Again, this ties in with mental stress and diet in a very complicated way, however, we may have some options.
The Science Behind This Idea
Before we get into the list, it should be noted that there is some scientific reasoning behind this idea. When we eat food, it releases hormones and sets off several reactions in the body. And when we digest that food the gut bacteria also play a big role in our emotional state. The main idea here is to try out foods that (hopefully) result in better serotonin production or those foods that help to reduce stress hormones. While not exhaustive (and certainly each person will have different results due to their relationship with different foods) we have compiled a list of possible stress-busting foods. See which foods work for you!
A Warm Cup of Tea (or Coffee!)
Herbal teas with a small amount of honey- for some people it’s the ultimate stress reliever after a tiring day. Holding on a warm cup and sipping something warm has been shown to boost internal feelings of warmth. And while anything warm can make us feel good, herbal teas that include chamomile, lavender, matcha all come with their own benefits. These teas are packed with flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
Whole Grains and Mood Boosts
Carbohydrates from whole grains and unrefined carbohydrates (grains, nuts, legumes and veggies) have been shown to boost serotonin levels temporarily. This is coupled with the fact that often these complex carb sources also come along with a healthy amount of fibre. This lowers the spike of blood sugar while simultaneously improving serotonin and keeping your gut bacteria healthy. Be sure to stay away from simple cards like white pastas and breads or you’ll get none of these benefits!
Avocados and Omega-3
Omega-3 fatty acids have been consistently linked to improved mood, lower stress and better concentration. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce your risk of heart disease and combat low blood pressure, and some studies indicate that a higher amount of this fatty acid is tied to a lower rate of depression in some people. Along with Omega-3, Avocados also come with carotenoids and fibre which help to reduce oxidative damage and improve gut health. Another great source of this fatty acid is fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel.
Milk and A Good Night's Sleep
Drinking warm milk before bed is something innately relaxing for many people and it’s something that is nearly as old as human civilization (nearly 6000 years ago!) While it has physical benefits to the body, the act itself may provide physiological benefits which can help you get a good night's sleep. The main nutrient in milk that contributes to lower stress is Calcium, which is vital for relaxed muscles and mood stabilization. If milk and dairy products are not preferred, you can seek out other sources of calcium like spinach, almonds and sunflower seeds.
Shellfish and Taurine
Shellfish tend to have a high content of amino acids like taurine. Taurine and other amino acids are vital in the production of dopamine. Dopamine is part of your body’s stress response, so a lack of amino acids (such as taurine) could potentially lead to higher levels of stress. A few studies have also shown that Taurine may behave like an antidepressant. Shellfish also contain zinc, copper and other minerals, mineral deficiency is associated with anxiety and depression. If shellfish cannot be part of your diet then try fish, chicken, beef and seaweed. It should be noted that all the above mentioned foods should be taken in moderation and that a healthy diet is essential to maintain longer lasting stress reduction. Having large amounts of herbal tea or avocados is not going to fix your stress by itself. Also, for some people, these foods might not work. In that case, you simply need to find healthy and beneficial foods that please you mentally when you eat them and make that part of your diet. Exercise and maintaining interpersonal relationships during Covid-19 are also vital for maintaining your mood so don’t focus only on your diet