Nutrition & stress

29 Oct 2020, 8:21AM

Nutrition plays a critical role in helping your body to manage and reduce the effects of long-term stress – the right nutrition can support your physical health which has a direct impact on your mental wellbeing.

While it can be hard to care about your nutrient intake when you’re in a period of mental anguish, simply becoming more mindful of, and purposeful with the foods that you’re eating can be a huge help to the way you think and feel.

There are some common nutrient deficiencies that can present during times of anxiety and overwhelm, as your body will tend to draw on and use up reserves of these nutrients. Topping up these stores can provide your body with the support it needs to better manage your stress response and maintain your mental wellbeing.



Vitamin C

The adrenal glands, which produce stress hormones, contain the body’s largest reservoir of vitamin C. When your body is under stress, those stores can become depleted. At these times, increasing your consumption of vitamin C can nourish the adrenal glands.

TIP: Add tomatoes, kiwifruit, berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts to your diet.



When you’re feeling stressed, sleep can seem like an elusive dream. But little, poor quality or broken sleep can perpetuate mental health issues. The amino acid glycine can aid sleep onset, enhance sleep quality and restore natural sleep patterns. Additionally, studies have found that it reduces daytime sleepiness and improve cognitive function – all of which can help you get your head back in the game.

TIP: Ask your healthcare practitioner about how to support your stores of glycine.


B vitamins

B vitamins are depleted during times of stress. Low levels of B vitamins can lead to fatigue, as they are vital for the body’s energy cycles as well as supporting your nervous and digestive systems. B vitamins also help your body manufacture neurotransmitters which improve your ability to deal with stress.

TIP: B vitamins are found most abundantly in animal products, but are also present in different amounts in whole grains, dark, leafy greens, legumes, seeds and nuts.



Magnesium plays a vital role in a number of important functions directly related to mental wellbeing, including reducing stress hormones, increasing the major inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, removing heavy metals and increasing brain plasticity. Magnesium is particularly supportive during times of stress; it can calm the body and aid sleep.

TIP: To add more magnesium to your diet, try including more green leafy vegetables such as spinach, legumes, dark chocolate and some fruits (including avocado) and whole grains including quinoa.



Similar to magnesium, zinc can help stimulate GABA within the brain, helping to regulate mood. Additionally, there are a number of enzymes containing zinc that are responsible for the synthesis of serotonin, the happy hormone. Zinc is also required for production of stomach acid and maintaining integrity of the gut lining, therefore a deficiency in zinc can affect digestion and nutrient absorption, reducing your ability to cope with stress. During times of stress, your body can become severely deficient in zinc and struggle to absorb it.

TIP: Some foods that contain high levels of zinc include red meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, whole grains and eggs.



Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are a healthy type of fat essential for normal brain function. These fats may play a positive role in mood disorders, with research suggesting that Omega-3 supports cognition, emotion and mood as well as heart health and inflammation.

TIP: The richest food source of these essential fatty acids is seafood such as anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring, Atlantic salmon and trout. Keep in mind that some fish can have high levels of mercury and other environmental contaminants. Walnuts, hemp and flax are also good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.