Stress and nutrition are linked due to certain nutrients’s ability to reduce circulating cortisol or inflammation. Although it is useful to know which nutrients these are, it is potentially more useful to know what foods contain these nutrients.
Below is a summary of foods that can help reduce inflammation caused by stress.
- Blueberries – A study recently showed that consuming 90g of blueberries twice per day can lead to an increase in mobility and pain-free movement. It can also delay the onset of inflammation following high-stress periods. A bonus to eating blueberries was a significant reduction in diastolic and systolic blood pressure!
- Strawberries – A 2010 study investigated how 100g of fresh strawberries influenced inflammatory markers after consuming a highly processed meal. The strawberry group reduced markers of inflammation significantly. Eating the strawberries also led to an improvement in the participants’ blood glucose control following the processed meal.
- Tart cherry juice – Concentrated cherry juice has been shown to have numerous benefits due to its high anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties. Consuming approximately 70ml of cherry concentrate (roughly 150-200 cherries) with 430ml of water has been shown to reduce markers of inflammation by 25%, 3% and 11% respectively. We recommend a cherry concentrate drink to hit the required amount!
- Beetroot – Beetroots contain large volumes of nitrate which has previously been shown to improve blood flow. There is now evidence that consuming 500ml of a nitrate-rich beverage (such as beetroot juice) reduces vascular inflammation. High nitrate beverages such as beetroot juice decrease the risk of hypertension, which can be a negative consequence of high stress.
- Omega-3 – Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3, has been shown to have high cell permeability meaning it can enter cells easily. This is particularly useful in the brain as DHA exhibits properties that aid brain function and development. This can have a positive impact on parts of the brain that regulate stress and the release of cortisol. Consuming 1g of omega-3 per day will mean you hit the daily recommended intake of DHA! Food sources of omega-3 include oily fish, avocado, nuts and oils.
You’ll notice that most of these foods are fruit and vegetables. Hitting your fruit and vegetable intake is a good start when it comes to reducing stress-induced inflammation, these should be two of each colour set (green, yellow/orange, red and purple/blue).
You should also consider an omega-3 supplement to hit your daily targets. Fish can be sporadic with its omega-3 content, while a supplement would contain the required recommended dose. During high-stress periods, adding the foods above into your diet will help reduce inflammation and the production of high levels of cortisol which can have a devastating impact on long-term health.