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Nerve food: The 5 best foods to combat stress

The to-do list is getting longer and longer, the diary is getting fuller and fuller - our everyday lives are characterised by hectic and stress. If an unexpected event comes along or something doesn't go as planned, nerves are quickly frayed. There is usually no time for rest and relaxation. Something else that often falls by the wayside: A balanced diet. Instead, people prefer to turn to "nerve food" such as chocolate and the like for short-term relaxation. However, the right diet can help to calm the nerves and restore inner serenity.

We show you which foods prevent stress and provide your nervous system with all the important nutrients. So you can stay on top of things even in stressful situations.

  • Why sweets are not good food for your nerves
  • Does chocolate make you happy
  • Brainfood: Which vitamins and minerals are good for strong nerves
  • Which amino acids influence the nervous system
  • Nerve food: anti-stress remedies from the kitchen cupboard
  • Power food: These 5 foods are good for strong nerves

Why sweets are not good food for the nerves

Chocolate and sweets are favourite companions in stressful times. However, they are not really suitable as brain food due to their high sugar content. Although they give you a short-term positive feeling and possibly an energy boost, the high dose of sugar in the blood leads to a strong release of insulin. This causes the blood sugar level to drop again quickly and the craving for the next chocolate bar increases.

Our brain is dependent on an adequate supply of glucose (dextrose). Our brain consumes around 140 g of glucose every day. This corresponds to around 75% of the total amount of glucose consumed by the body. This is despite the fact that the brain only accounts for around 2 % of our body weight. In stressful situations, this demand increases and our brain is constantly on the lookout for the next sugar boost. It is therefore important to provide the brain with sufficient and constant energy. Complex carbohydrates based on wholemeal (e.g. wholemeal bread or oatmeal) only enter the blood slowly and do not cause blood sugar levels to rise as much as the quickly available, isolated sugar from sweets. Our brain is thus supplied for longer and blood sugar fluctuations are avoided. At the same time, you provide your body with important nutrients. You are more focussed and balanced.

Low carb and concentration

Anyone who has been on a low-carb or keto diet will be familiar with the phenomenon: by the third day at the latest, concentration is gone and a bad mood sets in. This is due to the fact that the brain lacks the important glucose in a low-carb diet. In this "emergency situation", our brain can fall back on ketone bodies to generate energy. However, this switch takes a few days, which is why concentration is impaired during this time.

Does chocolate make you happy?

Chocolate is considered a happy food. Serotonin or its precursor, the amino acid tryptophan, is held responsible for this. The so-called "happiness hormone" serotonin has a mood-lifting effect and dampens negative feelings. Serotonin is obtained from tryptophan, which we mainly consume through protein-rich foods.

Although chocolate also contains tryptophan, the amount is rather small compared to other foods. In fact, eating chocolate is associated with positive memories of childhood. Chocolate can therefore certainly be described as a happiness booster, but the feelings of happiness are based less on the ingredients and more on our pleasant experiences.

If you want to do something good for your mind and body, go for dark chocolate or cocoa nibs. These contain significantly more health-promoting ingredients (e.g. polyphenols, which protect our blood vessels) and can - in moderation - be enjoyed without a guilty conscience.

Brainfood: Which vitamins and minerals are good for strong nerves? Why are some foods good for the nerves and others not? The nerve-strengthening effect is mainly due to the nutrients they contain. Vitamins and minerals in particular play an important role in nerve function. But amino acids and essential fatty acids also have an influence on our brain and nervous system.

Micronutrients that we need for strong nerves:

The B vitamins are considered the most important nutrients when it comes to processing nerve stimuli. Vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamin), niacin (vitamin B3) and biotin (vitamin B7) contribute to the normal functioning of the nervous system. Vitamin B12, for example, plays an important role in the regeneration and new formation of nerve fibre sheaths. Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) is important for mental performance. In terms of minerals and trace elements, magnesium, calcium and potassium in particular support the nervous system in its function. Calcium, for example, is important for the transmission of excitation to the nerve cells.

Folic acid, iron and vitamin B12 also help to reduce fatigue, as they are involved in the formation of red blood cells and therefore also in the transport of oxygen in the blood.

Antioxidants are also important in stressful times as they protect our cells from oxidative stress. These include vitamins C and E as well as selenium and zinc.

Can I improve my brain function with food? Nootropics: doping for the brain?
Which medicinal herbs help with tense nerves? Herbal mood enhancers
Food or already medicine? What are nutraceuticals?
Which amino acids affect the nervous system? Macronutrients are also essential for our nervous system. In addition to carbohydrates and essential fatty acids, protein is also important for our nerves. Protein provides us with amino acids, the building blocks for the body's own protein. Regeneration and regeneration processes can only take place if these building blocks are available in sufficient quantities.

At the same time, amino acids are also precursors for messenger substances such as neurotransmitters and hormones. As already mentioned, tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin, but also of the so-called "sleep hormone" melatonin. The essential amino acid phenylalanine is a precursor of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Glutamine is the starting material for the formation of the neurotransmitter gamma-amino-butyric acid (GABA for short).

Essential amino acids

Our body cannot produce some amino acids itself (= essential amino acids). These 8 amino acids must be ingested in sufficient quantities with food. Therefore, in addition to the quantity of dietary proteins, the quality (= biological value) of the protein is also important. You can find out more about the tasks of the essential amino acids here.

Nourishment for the nerves: anti-stress remedies from the kitchen

We have already learnt a few important things about nerve food. For example, complex carbohydrates should be prioritised and attention should be paid to an adequate intake of micronutrients and protein. You should also focus on plant-based fats (vegetable oils, nuts, avocado). The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are particularly important for our brain. As their content in plant-based foods is negligible (with the exception of algae), it is advisable to supplement omega-3 fatty acids or increase the intake of their precursor α-linolenic acid (ALA).

In general, the more balanced and colourful your diet is, the better. Fruit and vegetables in particular should be consumed in abundance. They not only contain lots of vitamins and minerals, but also secondary plant substances. Sufficient fluid intake is also essential for our brain and nerves. We should drink at least 1.5 to 2 litres of water or unsweetened tea per day.

Nutri-Plus Brainfood

If you want to specifically support your brain and nervous system, we recommend our Brainfood capsules with B vitamins, trace elements and turmeric, ginkgo and ginseng extract.

Power food: these 5 foods are good for strong nerves
Some foods are particularly recommended as nerve food in stressful times. The following five power foods are the perfect nourishment for your nerves. You should ideally include them in your diet every day.

Oatmeal

A muesli with oatmeal is the perfect start to a stressful day. These little power packs provide you with complex carbohydrates and important B vitamins (e.g. vitamin B1 and niacin). So you're ready for the hectic stress of everyday life.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts may contain a lot of calories, but they also contain many valuable nutrients. A handful of nuts a day is pure nerve food. In addition to important minerals (e.g. magnesium and potassium), nuts and seeds also contain vitamins (e.g. vitamin E and B vitamins), essential fatty acids and the amino acid tryptophan. Due to their high content of the omega-3 fatty acid α-linolenic acid, walnuts and linseeds are particularly recommended. Nuts are also perfect as an on-the-go snack.

Pulses

Pulses not only provide valuable protein, but also many B vitamins and minerals. Peas, beans, chickpeas and lentils contain B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and many other health-promoting plant substances. This provides your nervous system with important nutrients and keeps you calm in stressful times.

Green vegetables

Green vegetables such as spinach or kale are full of nutrients and phytochemicals. Iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin C and B vitamins - green vegetables are bursting with micronutrients and should not be missing from any diet.

Bananas

Bananas are considered to be the perfect nerve food. The yellow fruits are not only an ideal source of energy, but also provide you with magnesium, potassium, folic acid and vitamin B6. The healthy alternative to chocolate bars and the like and perfect for on the go.

Spices for strong nerves

Many spices are also used as medicinal plants and can also calm the nerves. Turmeric, black pepper and ginger, for example, are said to have a protective effect on the nervous system. At the same time, spices contain many antioxidant vital substances.

Find out more about spices and well-being here:

  • Turmeric - how healthy is the yellow root 
  • 3 reasons why you should eat more ginger 
  • 3 reasons why you should eat more pepper