POSHAN Maah: Five Foods That Can Help Manage Mental Stress During COVID-19 Pandemic
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), people around the world are facing increasing mental stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has advised people to avoid watching, reading or listening to news that causes feelings of anxiety or distress. However, experts believe that along with stressful news, there are other reasons also that are causing stress among people, like the sense of isolation and being disconnected from the world, the fear of getting infected by coming in contact with others or travelling on public transport or going into public spaces. However, stress can take a toll on your body's natural immunity, says Dr. Jagmeet Madan, National President, Indian Dietetic Association and Principal, Sir Vithaldas Thackersey College, Mumbai. She added that eating the right food can help fight stress as nutrients present in food can help balance hormones, for example, B vitamins found in high quantity in leafy greens are necessary for the production of a chemical substance at the end of nerve fibre called neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which help regulate mood. Similarly, high levels of vitamin C found in fruits are linked to elevated mood and lower levels of stress and anger, Omega3 found in nuts and seeds are not only essential for brain health and mood but may also help your body handle stress, diets rich in plant proteins like chickpeas help boost brain health and improve mental performance, antioxidants found in large number of fruits and vegetables help reduce stress-related inflammation and protect against stress-related cellular damage, she said. Here are five foods that Dr. Madan recommends to everyone as "must add" in their daily diet for stress management especially during the uncertain times as these.
According to Dr. Madan, including seasonal fruits as part of daily diet can help repair inflammation caused at the cellular level as fruits are high in antioxidants and thus reduce stress. Antioxidants also boost immune system. Fruits are also full of soluble fibre which balance mood swings caused by changes in blood sugar levels.
Vegetables can be of great help if you struggle with stress, says Dr. Madan. She said, folate, fibre and other nutrients in vegetables help improve and stabilize mood. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots are also a great source of vitamins and minerals, fibre and carbohydrates which can help in boosting serotonin which is a type of neurotransmitter.
Leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, cabbage and others are a great source of folate, which is a vitamin that helps produce serotonin and dopamine that makes people feel good, she said. Dr. Madan added that dark, leafy greens are the most nutrient-dense and healthiest of all. Leafy green vegetables are also rinch in stress-busting magnesium.
According to Dr. Madan, chickpeas- a legumes- are packed with stress-fighting proteins, vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper. She said that there are studies that prove that chickpeas improve brain health.
Nuts like almond, pistachios and walnuts can boost energy level in a person and improve mood, said Dr. Madan. Rich in omega-3 fats, vitamins and zinc, snacking on nuts help keep blood sugar levels at a healthy level.