Stress manifests itself in various ways and the affects of stress on the body can take their toll on anyone, especially if the stress is acute or chronic. While there are various ways in which one can deal with stress and prevent stress from adversely affecting our body, vitamins and minerals can play a vital role in managing stress and anxiety.
Here are some of the vitamins and minerals that play a vital role in how our body prepares itself during stress.
B-Complex vitamins are vital to your emotional wellness. Since these cannot be stored in the body you have to depend on your daily diet to supply them. Moreover, alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine and caffeine destroy B vitamins leading to deficiency of these essential micronutrients.
- Vitamin B1 or thiamine is used for converting blood sugar or glucose to energy. With inadequate levels of thiamine the body loses energy. This may lead to fatigue, anxiety and sometimes, thoughts of suicide. Thiamine deficiency can also cause memory problems, insomnia and problems in the gastrointestinal tract. Good sources of Vitamin B1 include wholegrain cereals, brown rice, sunflower seeds and oats.
- Vitamin B3 or niacin is necessary for normal functioning of the nervous system. It is necessary for the synthesis of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that keeps you calm. Pellagra, a disease caused by deficiency of niacin and characterized by nervous or mental disorders has virtually disappeared since many commercial foods now contain niacin. However, sub clinical deficiencies of niacin can produce agitation and anxiety. Fish and meat products are good sources of Vitamin B3 compared to plant products. Among plant products, good sources of vitamin B3 are green leafy vegetables, asparagus, whole grains, avocados, dates and figs.
- Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid plays an important role in oxidation of fats, carbohydrates and certain amino acids. In conjunction with folic acid and vitamin C it regulates the functioning of adrenal glands that are responsible for stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Rich sources of vitamin B5 are whole grains, avocados, yogurt, chicken, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
- Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine is essential for metabolism of amino acids, the building blocks of all proteins and some hormones. This is required for synthesis of serotonin, dopamine and melatonin. These neurotransmitters and the hormone (melatonin) are essential for nervous system function and keep you calm. Good sources of vitamin B6 include meats, whole grains, sunflower seeds, bananas, spinach and turnip greens.
- Vitamin B12 is vital for red blood formation. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to pernicious anemia, which can potentially cause mood swings, paranoia, irritability, confusion, dementia, hallucinations, or mania. Good sources of vitamin B12 are meat, dairy products, eggs and full-fat milk.
- Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant necessary for neutralizing free radicals. Free radicals are high-energy particles that ricochet wildly and damage cells. Extra antioxidants prove useful in managing stress and anxiety as the body produces more free radical when you are stressed. Excellent sources of Vitamin C are Indian gooseberries, lychees, oranges, parsley, broccoli, papaya and strawberries.
- Magnesium – Stress contributes to depletion of magnesium in the body. Its deficiency can lead to confusion, anxiety, agitation and hallucinations. Leafy green vegetables are good sources of magnesium. Other good sources are pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, grain bran, banana and shrimps.
- Calcium – Low level of calcium has a negative impact on the central nervous system. Calcium deficiency can cause nervousness, anxiety, numbness and irritability. Calcium is found in good quantities in sesame seeds, yogurt, milk, cheese, blackstrap molasses and collard greens.
- Zinc – Inadequate level of zinc causes lethargy, apathy and lack of appetite. Low level of zinc leads to toxic levels of copper, which in turn leads to fearfulness and paranoia. Good sources of zinc include, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, chickpeas and green peas.
- Iron – Besides anemia, iron deficiency can also cause depression. Good sources of iron are dark green leafy vegetables, chickpeas, dried figs, dried apricots, avocados, yogurt, brown rice, bran and bananas.
- Manganese – Manganese serves as a catalyst for proper use of vitamin B and C. It also plays a role in formation of amino acids and its deficiency can spur depression due to reduced production of serotonin and norepinephrine. Good sources of manganese are green vegetables, wholegrain cereals and nuts.
- Potassium – Depletion of this mineral is associated with depression, crying, fatigue and weakness. Rich sources of potassium are sweet potatoes, swiss chards, lima beans, soybeans, avocados, bananas, yogurt and spinach.
Time to Pop that Pill?
Now that you know the vitamins and minerals that are essential during times of stress, it is tempting to go for that multi-vitamin pill you often see being advertised and say goodbye to stress forever. It doesn’t work that way. If that was the case then we all would be stress free by popping vitamin pills, isn’t it? While it’s true that in some cases you need to take vitamins which cannot be had in sufficient amount through diet, majority of the vitamins and minerals our body needs should come from food.
Eat Plenty of Veggies and Fruits
Junk food like refined flour (burger, pizza, white bread), sweets, caffeine rob your body off essential vitamins and minerals and weaken it. On other hand fresh food, vegetables and fruits provide your body with essential nutrients and strengthen it to ward off stress. Make it a point to include a variety of fruits and vegetables (different colors) in your diet so you get the maximum range of nutrients.