Top vitamins and minerals to help with stress

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Stress is a normal response by the body to the many demands of the modern world, such as work, family and social responsibilities. However, high levels of stress over the long term can have undesirable consequences for our health, enjoyment of life and relationships.1 For most of us, it’s just not possible to remove all stress from our life, which makes managing it even more important. Here are our top vitamins and minerals to help you get a handle on it.

  1. Vitamin B1 – Vitamin B1,also called thiamine, is a brain boosting nutrient found in foods such as yeast, cereals, beans, nuts and meat. It’s been used to enhance learning, reduce the symptoms of stress and protect against memory loss.2 Thiamine may also help to improve your mood and have a positive effect on your state of mind,3 which is an important factor in your ability to cope with stress.
  2. Vitamin B2 – Vitamin B2 is a water soluble vitamin that works with other substances in the body to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates for energy. When you are stressed you have an increased need for this important vitamin and it’s shown to be beneficial for anxiety, stress and tiredness, and helps promote a healthy nervous system, skin and hair.4 Fortunately it’s plentiful in many foods, including dairy products, eggs, green leafy vegetables, meat, legumes, milk and nuts. Some cereals and breads have added vitamin B2 as well,5 so there’s a variety of ways to top up on this great nutrient.
  3. Vitamin B5 – Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid, plays an important role in the production of stress hormones produced in the adrenal glands6 as well as other chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. These substances help to reduce stress symptoms such as anxiety and may help you to remain calm under stress.7 It’s widely found in both plants and animals, with meat, vegetables, cereal, legumes, eggs and milk being the best natural sources.8
  4. Vitamin B6 – Vitamin B6 is needed for both a healthy immune and nervous system. It also assists in the formation of brain chemicals such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine and is therefore essential for mood regulation and healthy mental function. You’ll find it in foods such as salmon, poultry, potatoes, spinach and other vegetables, nuts and in fruit such as bananas.9 It may also help women who suffer with PMS and associated mood swings.
  5. Vitamin B12 – Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that’s important for a healthy nervous system and red blood cells. It’s naturally found in animal products like fish, poultry, red meat, eggs and dairy. It’s usually not found in plants, but a lot of foods nowadays have added vitamin B12, such as breakfast cereals.10 It helps to maintain healthy brain and nervous system function, which may be beneficial in times of stress. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, antibiotics and high levels of stress, all increase the body’s vitamin B12 requirements.11
  6. Magnesium – Magnesium plays an essential role in a wide range of fundamental biologic reactions and is therefore an essential mineral for the body. Unfortunately stress can increase dietary requirements for magnesium. People who exercise regularly and strenuously may also require additional magnesium. If your body is under too much stress and magnesium becomes depleted, you could experience symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, agitation, anxiety and confusion. Top up your magnesium intake with foods like nuts, legumes, green leafy vegetables, tofu and chocolate.15
  7. Calcium – Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and is needed for healthy muscle contractions, nervous system signaling and hormone secretion.12 Stress causes your body to use up certain nutrients, especially calcium, which can become depleted quite quickly. Try adding calcium rich foods to your diet, such as dairy products, spinach, tofu and soft bony fish such as sardines.13
  8. Vitamin C – Vitamin C is important for the growth and repair of many tissues in the body, such as the skin, blood vessels, tendons, teeth and bones. It’s also a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from damage caused by free radicals.14 Vitamin C may reduce levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and supports the immune system.15 All fruits and vegetables contain vitamin C, with the highest levels found in citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, mango, pineapple, broccoli, brussel sprouts and cauliflower.16
  9. Vitamin E – Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that acts as an antioxidant and protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. It’s found in lots of foods including nuts, seeds and vegetable oils such
    as canola, soy and corn oil. Vitamin E is also found in green leafy vegetables and is added to some breakfast cereals.17 It’s an important nutrient for supporting the adrenal glands, which manage our stress by producing key stress hormones.18

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Published February 4, 2014
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