With exams round the corner, children and parents come under pressure and stress. Can what you eat make a difference to how you cope with stress. The answer is a YES.
Studies suggest that what you eat can affect your mood, alter stress levels, irritability and promote calmness. Further, it has been reported that unhealthy meals can increase stress levels. Another study indicates that students under the influence of academic examination stress show significant increase in food intake, high fat and sugary snacks, which can be counter-productive.
Further, increased stress creates a greater need for certain essential nutrients like water soluble vitamins- Vitamin B, C and minerals like zinc. The levels of vitamin C can fluctuate depending on the degree of physical and emotional stress.
Nutrients such as vitamin C, B6, zinc, magnesium, potassium, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and amino acid tyrosine are required for synthesis and proper functioning of adrenal hormones- the most important stress fighting hormone. By following some simple tips, one can protect oneself from faulty eating during stressful times and promote calmer state of mind.
Beat stress by eating right:
Eat smaller frequent meals to ensure a steady stream of energy and have a calming effect on the brain. Avoid large meals.
Choose adequate amount of fresh fruits and vegetables like amla, citrus fruits, tomatoes, green peppers, green leafy vegetables, kiwi, broccoli, and strawberries to ensure good vitamin C status.
Minimise intake of white flour, white rice, sweetened beverages and sugar. Choose whole grains like oats, barley, brown rice and whole wheat; pulses, nuts and seeds, low fat dairy, seafood, lean meats, green leafy vegetables and wheat germ to ensure adequate intake of vitamin B and zinc.
Avoid junk food and poor quality fat (hydrogenated- trans fats).
Snack smart on fresh fruits, dry fruits, honey coated nuts, seeds, roasted whole grains, soups, salads, hot chocolate, almond milk or yogurt, to prevent swings in blood sugars and cravings.
Drink plenty of fluids and remain well hydrated. Green tea, jasmine tea and cammomile tea help calm the mind.
Take tea, coffee and caffeinated beverages, including colas in moderation.
For those looking for memory enhancing techniques, nourish your brain with healthy food rather than gulping memory pills.
Memory boosting nutrients include:
Antioxidants like vitamin A, E and C found in natural foods like eggs, carrots, brocolli, fish, nuts, green leafy vegetables and fruits. They reduce the cell damage in the brain.
Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish, mustard oil, mustard seeds, methi, urad dal, rajma, soybeans, lobia, walnuts, bajra, and flaxseeds (alsi) are good for brain as well as good skin and heart health. Flaxseeds are the richest plant source of omega 3 fats.
Vitamin B1: It keeps the nervous system healthy and is used in the biosynthesis of a number of cell constituents, including the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and gamma-amonibutyric acid. It also aids memory and learning. Good sources of vitamin B1 (Thiamin) include rice bran, wheat germ, whole wheat flour, barley, maize (dry), eggs, cow’ milk (skimmed, whole), khoa etc.; wheat and rice bran being the richest sources.
Vitamin B12: It is needed for the proper functioning of the central nervous system. It improves concentration, memory, balance and relieves irritability. Foods of animal origin like egg, lean meat, low-fat milk etc. are good sources of animal origin. Plant foods containing this vitamin include spirulina (blue green algae).
Folic Acid: It is essential for the body’s clearance of homocysteine, an amino acid that causes cognitive decline and preserves cellular health. Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, pulses, wheatgerm form important sources of folic acid.