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Yes, diet helps fight stress. So what are the foods that will help you deal with it?

Usually when we talk about stress management, the most common advice they will give you is to exercise often, make time for your favorite activities, meditate or adopt mindfulness techniques . But food can also be a very effective way to manage stress, according to research .

A study showed that eating fermented foods as well as fiber every day for four weeks had a significant effect on reducing stress. Over the last decade, more and more research has shown that diet can have a significant effect on mental health . In fact, a balanced diet can reduce the risk of a number of mental illnesses.

“It is now proven that nutrients contained in food determine the production of neurotransmitters produced by the brain. This has the consequence that they also regulate mood or anxiety levels respectively”, says the Dietitian – Nutritionist M.Sc. Eleni Tsahaki .

The mechanisms underpinning the effect of diet on mental health are not yet fully understood. But one explanation could be the brain’s relationship with the microbiome , that is, the trillions of bacteria that live in the gut. Also known as the gut-brain axis , this mechanism allows the brain and gut to be in constant communication with each other, allowing basic body functions such as digestion and appetite to function.


Foods that reduce stress


The importance of nutrition in managing stress

Furthermore, this proves that the emotional and cognitive centers of our brain are closely connected to the gut. As Eleni Tsahaki mentions, “recent studies prove that 95% of our serotonin is secreted by the intestine . Something that was not known before. Therefore, the health of our gut is very important, since when we have a healthy gut , we can better absorb the nutrients we get from our diet.”

Research conducted on 45 healthy people aged 18-59 proved that yes, diet can affect stress levels. The participants were divided into two groups who were randomly given two different diet plans for four weeks. Half were given a diet designed by nutritionist Dr. Kirsten Berding, which would increase the amount of prebiotics and fermented foods . This diet is known as the psychobiotic diet , as it includes foods that have been linked to better mental health.

The psychobiotic diet

This group was instructed to have an individual session with a dietitian both at the beginning and halfway through the study . They were told they should aim to consume 6-8 servings of fruit and vegetables high in prebiotic fiber daily (such as onions, leeks, cabbage, apples, bananas and oats), 5-8 servings of whole grains a day and 3-4 servings of of legumes per week. They were also told to include 2-3 servings of fermented foods daily (such as sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha).

The rest of the participants only received general nutritional advice  about what foods to eat based on the healthy food pyramid. Interestingly, those who followed the psychobiotic diet reported feeling less stressed compared to those who followed the conventional balanced diet.

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