The covid 19 pandemic and the resulting lockdowns have significantly disrupted our work life, social life, academia, as well as the way education is delivered to our children. To varying degrees, we have all experienced the stress caused by the fear of contracting the virus, the fear of seeing one’s loved ones affected by the disease, and the loss of our social connections. This has negatively impacted our sleep, eating habits, and mental well-being.
Stress is a physiological defence mechanism against a threat to the body. Any stress reaction triggers the secretion of the hormone cortisol which maintains our ability to respond to stress. In the case of chronic (prolonged) stress, cortisol accumulates and disrupts our sleep, our mood, our immunity, as well as how efficiently the body deals with sugars and fats.
‘Normalisation’ to our pre-COVID-19 life, will not happen overnight, however, we can start now to take those important steps towards improving our quality of life.
How can we help our body and mind to manage stress better?
Diet, physical activity, sleep, relaxation are fundamental pillars that are all connected and on which we can build a healthier lifestyle.
Let’s start by taking a look at how our meals can help us better manage our daily stress.
1) Respecting our body clocks
Starting with a high-protein breakfast with as little sugar as possible will encourage the synthesis of our “starter” neurotransmitter, dopamine and will reduce cravings during the day.
Complex carbohydrates at dinner will promote the synthesis of serotonin, the neurotransmitter of serenity, which also influences the sleep hormone melatonin.
2) An essential anti-stress mineral: magnesium
We should also try to increase our intake of magnesium, a mineral that is involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body and is essential, among other things, for stress management.
The more stressed we are, the more magnesium is eliminated in our urine, and the less we have, and the more stressed we become. It’s a vicious circle that can be avoided by a magnesium-rich diet and if this is not enough, a well-tolerated and assimilated magnesium salt supplement recommended by a micronutrition specialist.
Your magnesium-rich food basket:
- Organic wholegrain cereals (wholemeal bread, pasta or rice)
- Pulses (green and coral lentils, red and white beans, split peas, broad beans, chickpeas, etc.)
- Unsalted almonds, hazelnuts
- Mineral waters rich in magnesium.
- Dark chocolate >70%
- Wheat germ.
3) Fats that do us good: Omega 3
The good fats, called Omega 3 fatty acids, are part of the building blocks of our cells and promote good communication between our nerve cells. Our body cannot make them so they must be obtained from our diet. They are found in small oily fish (sardines, mackerel, herring), certain vegetable oils (rapeseed, walnut and flaxseed used as dressings), walnuts, hazelnuts, chia seeds, crushed flaxseeds.
4) Fill up on vitamins which can be found in a variety of colourful seasonal fruits and vegetables
5) Feed your intestinal microbiota with a diet rich in prebiotic fibres
These are found in artichoke, asparagus, banana, garlic, leek, onion, wholegrains. They nourish our “good” intestinal bacteria and a diet rich in probiotics (bacteria from fermented products, kefir, kimchi, kombucha…)
6) Don’t forget to stay well hydrated and limit caffeine.
Try substituting caffeinated drinks with green tea which has antioxidant and detoxifying properties.
7) Avoid ultra-processed products, sweets, sodas and industrial fruit juices which cause spikes in a hormone called insulin.
Insulin carries sugar from the bloodstream into cells, and therefore a reactive low blood sugar level called, hypoglycaemia can occur. This can lead to snacking, fatigue and low mood.
The very positive point is that we have the power to improve the way we cope with stress through our lifestyle.
Get personalised stress-reducing diet advice.
Our Nutritionist, Muriel, can help put together bespoke diet plans and provide personalised guidance if you’re looking for help to improve your diet and reduce stress through healthy eating.