The Best Foods to Reduce Stress

Ophélie Ostermann – Madame Figaro


The Best Foods to Reduce Stress

Whenever you’re stressed, your body will demand more food, but you shouldn’t be eating just any food. To take care of your system, here’s what you should be putting in your plate whenever you’re going through a stressful period.

Last May, the United Nations (UN) warned of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental health of populations and called on governments to start putting investments in that field. Lockdown and quarantine were a factor of stress and anxiety, and they can literally hurt the body. The goal is to get through the phase with minimum damage. In parallel with talking to a health professional, or meditating each morning or listening to the sound of the waves on your smartphone, let's start with the basics: the contents of the plate, your food.


A spotlight on B Vitamins

Our emotional balance is guaranteed by the right chemistry. A game of hormones and neurotransmitters which is unbalanced when you’re experiencing stress. To remedy this, "the body will draw on its resources, on what it has left", adds the Naturopath Angelica Alcantara. To avoid finishing stocks, it is then necessary to help your body by giving it the essential nutrients it needs for this relaxation chemistry.

B vitamins are essential if you want to do the previous. “They participate in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, they thus help to produce dopamine and taurine, an amino acid which allows the integration of magnesium into the cell", explains Angélique Houlbert, a dietician, nutritionist and author of “Stress, les solutions naturelles” or “Stress, the natural solution” (Ed. Thierry Souccar). For a Vitamin B6 bound, consume whole wheat, pistachios, tuna (chosen with care and consumed once a week maximum), raw garlic and sunflower seeds.

Two other neuro-mediators need to be boosted: gaba, which promotes calm, and serotonin, also called the happiness hormone, which notably affects the quality of sleep. "Glutamine is the precursor of gaba, it is found in almonds, whole wheat, walnuts, lentils and oats", specifies the naturopath Angelica Alcantara. Tryptophan is, for its part, the precursor of serotonin, it is taken from oatmeal, avocado, protein such as chicken, and cheese.


Food with low glycemic index

The goal is also to stop the leakage of magnesium, a mineral essential to the body. “It's a real vicious circle, the more we stress, the more the body over-consumes magnesium; and the less we have magnesium, the more we will stress”, specifies the dietitian nutritionist Angélique Houlbert. To fill it up, we opt for water rich in minerals and dark chocolate (Make sure it’s 90% cocoa). In addition to being an excellent source of iodine, seafood also offers magnesium.

Sugar, your go-to whenever you’re stressed, is in fact your enemy. In times of stress, it is precisely essential to favor foods with a low glycemic index. “Blood sugar - the level of sugar in the blood - has an impact on stress, it exacerbates it. Therefore there’s a huge importance in consuming foods with a low glycemic index (which do not increase blood sugar levels), such as whole grains or vegetables.” recommends the dietitian nutritionist. We also should avoid industrial prepared meals, which are too sweet. In order not to give in to emotional eating, naturopath Angelica Alcantara recommends eating more meals during the day than usual “'small meals, of better quality, with lots of vegetables,” she adds.


From fats, we favor omega-3 for their anti-inflammatory effect, found in nuts, rapeseed oils, camelina, and fatty fish (mackerel, herring sardines, to be consumed several times a week). We also take care of our vitamin C intake, "sprinkle your dishes with parsley, drink a squeezed lemon, eat a kiwi, strawberries ..." says the dietitian Angélique Houlbert.

In addition to the content of the plate, needless to say that sports and their recognized anxiolytic effects are still useful and prevent us from exploding. Finally, certain plants called "adaptogens" polish the nervous system: "Rhodiola and ashwagandha are very interesting, we can feel results after three to four days", indicates Angélique Houlbert. Lavender, valerian and passionflower are also to slip into your mugs as tisanes.