The Best Plant-based Proteins for Stress Management
- Continuous strain can lead to a range of health issues like reduced brain function, high blood pressure, a weaker immune system, high glucose levels, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression.
- Consuming more refined carbohydrates causes blood sugar and insulin levels to fluctuate, resulting in mood swings, irritability, and low energy.
- Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are essential in the creation of neurotransmitters.
- Tryptophan cannot be produced by the body and must be acquired through dietary protein sources.
- If you have anemia, you must consume iron-rich protein sources in your diet.
In today's highly challenging and demanding world, it appears that everyone is always 'stressed out'—and sometimes for a good reason: either the economy is still not doing well, the kids need to be picked up from school, or your in-laws are coming to visit!
But, in the context of our health, what does this seemingly widespread word mean? Researchers commonly perceived stress as a murky and highly subjective sensation for individuals.
However, the most popular definition is "the brain's reaction to every new demand." This "desire" might be caused by several things, which can be temporary or long-term, positive or bad, genuine or imagined. A vacation to an unknown place, for example, falls under the broad category of "stress."
Stress is a natural reaction to a new demand that has biological importance. It keeps you focused, aware, and prepared to face the demands of a work deadline, a new duty, or a variety of high-stakes situations like a musical performance, a contest, or a first date.
Effects of chronic stress
Prolonged, continuous stress, known as chronic stress, is known to have substantial, negative impacts on people's long-term mental and physical health. Traumatic stress (such as a near-death experience), everyday stress (such as a long daily drive to work), and mental turmoil can all be harmful (such as the loss of a loved one).
Continuous strain on one's body from ordinary or catastrophic stress can lead to a range of health issues, including reduced brain function, high blood pressure, a weaker immune system, high glucose levels, heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. Above all, prolonged stress can reduce our happiness.
Cortisol is a stress hormone generated by the adrenal glands. This hormone is necessary for controlling your "fight-or-flight" response. It also provides the energy required to deal with stress. This is why it has earned the name "stress hormone."
Unfortunately, persistently elevated cortisol levels can cause a variety of health concerns, including an increase in sugar cravings, skin problems, and sleep disruptions, as well as impairing your body's capacity to utilize certain nutrients correctly. Stress management is essential for keeping this hormone in check, and one method to do so is to consume nutritious, nutritional stress-relieving meals.
In recent years, experts have begun to look at some of the potential treatments for stress and its effects. Protein is important for everyday health, mood, stress, anxiety, depression, neurotransmitter control, and many other factors that influence daily and overall well-being. This article delves into how the protein might help relieve stress-related symptoms by modulating hormone levels.
Everyone has to recognize that eating unhealthy foods and having inconsistent eating patterns can cause mood swings, blood sugar fluctuations, and nutritional imbalances, which can lead to the disorders listed above.
Effects of unhealthy eating on mood
Here are a few instances of how an unhealthy eating routine might affect your mood and well-being.
- Skipping Breakfast: When people miss breakfast, their blood sugar drops, leaving them feeling weak and exhausted.
- Limiting Some Food Groups: There is a trend toward consuming specific meals while limiting others which leads to a lack of certain foods. Protein is a critical nutrient that three out of every four Indians lack. Which, given our current condition, is pretty concerning.
- Consuming Refined Carbs: Consuming more refined carbohydrates causes blood sugar and insulin levels to fluctuate, resulting in mood swings, irritability, and low energy.
Protein enhances neurotransmitter functionality
Amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are essential in the creation of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are substances that enable brain cells to interact with one another. When you consume a piece of chicken, your body breaks down the protein and synthesizes the amino acid L-Tyrosine, which is then converted into dopamine.
Low dopamine levels have been linked to a variety of illnesses, including depression, addiction, ADHD, Alzheimer's disease, and schizophrenia. L-Tryptophan, a necessary amino acid present in chicken, fish, dairy, and nuts & pumpkin seeds, is a precursor of serotonin, which in turn makes melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that the brain produces in response to darkness. As a result, it is the hormone linked to the sleep/wake cycle. Eating foods high in L-Tryptophan can improve your mood to a greater extent.
Tryptophan cannot be produced by the body and must be acquired through dietary protein sources. Low tryptophan levels have been linked to mood disorders such as depression. Tryptophan appears to be linked to memory and brain function as well. As a result, appropriate protein consumption is necessary to sustain mood and mental health via tryptophan levels.
Eating more protein makes you eat fewer sweets
When protein-rich meals are the focus of your diet, you are less likely to reach for sugary snacks. High sugar consumption can have a lot of negative effects on all of your body's systems, jeopardizing both your physical and mental health.
Blood sugar levels are influenced by the meals we eat, particularly those high in sugar or carbohydrates. Carbohydrate or sugar-rich diets elevate and can even spike blood sugar when there are no other neutralizing nutrients present, such as fiber or protein.
Blood sugar is also affected by stress via the fight or flight response. When we are under acute or short-term stress, our bodies release epinephrine (adrenaline), which causes the release of sugar into circulation, giving us that surge of energy.
Acute stress might include things like a public speaking event or a car accident. However, chronic stress can include things like worrying about the pandemic or dealing with a health condition like cancer.
Long-term stress causes a continual release of sugar, which can wreak havoc on one's system and potentially lead to insulin resistance. Add to that stress eating, which is often nutrient-deficient, sugar-laden meals that can disrupt blood sugar levels and contribute to weight gain.
Protein sources in the diet (whether animal or plant-based) have little to no refined sugar and hence do not affect blood sugar. When ingested as part of a meal, fiber and protein both aid in delaying the digestive process, thus decreasing the release of glucose into the circulation.
Increasing your protein intake can help you control your sweet tooth and balance your blood sugar. No added sugar protein bars, for example, can be an efficient snacking strategy to keep you satiated between meals. However, keep an eye on the sugar level of protein bars, since some protein bars can have as much added sugar as a cookie.
Anemia can have an impact on your mood
Protein, as a macronutrient, is found in meals that are strong in iron. Anemia can be caused by a lack of iron, the most prevalent dietary deficit in the world.
Anemia can cause weariness, irritability, and disengagement. You may feel unmotivated or unable to maintain long periods of physical exercise, which can add to feelings of depression.
If you have anemia, you must consume iron-rich protein sources in your diet. Anemia treatment will lift your spirits and make it simpler to function.
Tips that will help you choose the right protein to combat stress
1. Dairy products
- Protein is abundant in foods such as skim milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Lactium, a protein found in milk, is the newest soldier to aid you in your fight against stress. This protein relaxes the body, decreases blood pressure, and lowers cortisol levels.
- A glass of milk before bedtime promotes sleep, and adequate rest helps keep stress at bay.
2. Beans and Legumes
- Beans, chickpeas, and peas are high in both protein and fiber. To increase your protein consumption, add them to salads, soups, and stews.
- Chickpeas are high in anti-stress vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper.
- According to research, diets high in plant proteins like chickpeas may aid enhance brain health and mental function.
3. Nuts and Seeds
- In addition to being high in protein, nuts and seeds are also high in fiber and "good" lipids. Toss them into salads or have them on hand for snacking.
- Nuts and seeds are high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids, which aid in stress reduction.
- Walnuts are an excellent source of Omega 3. Tryptophan, which promotes serotonin synthesis and helps alleviate the effects of a stressful day, is also found in cashews and sunflower seeds.
4. Tofu & Soy products:
- Non-GMO tofu and soy are high in protein and low in fat, making them great red meat substitutes. Tofu and soy products contain isoflavones, which may help calm the mood. According to research, taking two to four servings of soy per day may dramatically improve your mood.
- Plant-based protein sources are generally less expensive than meat, so they may be as good for your pocket as it is for your health.
Protein is an important macronutrient that we must consume in sufficient quantities in our meals to sustain anxiety levels! Quality is everything!
Some people may benefit from having more animal proteins in their diets, while others may benefit from reducing those and including more plant-based proteins.
If you suffer from anxiety, blood sugar imbalances, hormonal imbalances, vitamin deficiencies, and/or anemia (low iron), it might be beneficial to review your protein consumption with the help of a nutritionist like me to determine what works best for you!
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