Wherever you are in the world – economic difficulties can be a big contributor to your stress in everyday life. Organisations like the World Health Organisation and others state that economic fluctuations in a nation are more likely to increase the prevalence of stress, plus mental health issues such as anxiety; depression; suicides etc.
In Zimbabwe, statistics show that there are only 12 psychiatrists and 20 clinical psychologists in a population of approximately 13 million. I love various initiatives such as the Friendship Bench project that was launched by Dr. Dixon Chibanda where “community grandmothers” talk to people about various issues, whilst sitting outside of a community health clinic. You can watch his TED talk about this project by clicking here now. I commend him for this fantastic initiative!
Whilst high levels of stress and increased mental health issues would be the likelihood in any country around the world, today I’m going to focus on Zimbabwe because that is where I was born and raised until my early teenage years. Even though I’ve lived in Germany; the UK and now in Australia for the past 11 years, “home is home” and I’m still deeply connected to my birth country through my language Shona; family; friends and the Elizabeth Chanakira Cancer Trust (“ECCT”) which I founded in 2011, after my mother Elizabeth passed away from cancer in Zimbabwe in 2010.
I could find numerous articles about foods to help beat stress, anxiety and depression – but none that were more specific to my beloved home country. So I thought I would write a short list for my fellow Zimbabweans and Africans in other regions, particularly in the southern region who would also be able to access most of these foods.
It is key that when accessing these natural, local foods that they are accessible to the general population otherwise it defeats the purpose of having foods to reduce stress – if you then get stressed to find where the heck they are lol!
So here goes…bearing in mind that this is not an exhaustive list.
1. Sadza rezviyo
The particular benefit with sadza rezviyo which is made from millet grain , is that it is a wholegrain carbohydrate (“carb”). There are so many diets out there that restrict carbs, but our body’s organs need them to function, including our brain. This is key to reduce stress and fight issues such as anxiety and depression, as wholegrain carbs provide us with a slow release of energy into the bloodstream (as opposed to white, refined and processed carbs such as white sadza, potatoes etc) so that you have more strength to get through the day.
Wholegrains also have a type of amino acid that makes your body produce the happy chemical called serotonin. Serotonin helps to calm your mind, boost your mood, and steady your sleep patterns.
2. Mazhanje fruit
In english, this is known as wild loquat fruit. Besides nutrients such as Vitamin A which helps to maintain our skin and antioxidants which boost our immunity levels to fight diseases, mazhanje also contain potassium which is essential amongst other things, in keeping our brain healthy. In turn, this can reduce the effects of stressors.
3. Matamba fruit
Matamba or monkey fruit are rich in anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The anti-inflammatory properties are key because 95% of all the conditions we face as human beings are caused after we have taken in external toxins such as stress, poor nutrition etc into our bodies. Inflammation then occurs in our body, which leads to all the various conditions that we battle worldwide such as cancers; arthritis; anxiety; depression and so on.
Matamba also contain nutrients such as magnesium which are key in regulating the neurotransmitters which send messages throughout the brain and body, and help with the glands that affect our response to stress.
”Muriwo’ is a Shona word, describing the varying types of leafy green vegetables accompanied with most meals in Zimbabwe. The various types of dark leafy greens are high in a wide variety of nutrients, such as chlorophyll, Vitamins A,C, E, K and many of the B vitamins, minerals especially iron, calcium and magnesium.
There are countless benefits for your mental health but chlorophyll, for example, promotes alkalinity in the body and is generally detoxifying. The build of toxicity in the body leads to inflammation, which can then contribute to conditions such as anxiety and depression. To understand how toxins cause inflammation, follow the Fitness To A Tee series “Secrets to a Flatter Tummy” by clicking here now.
5. Pumpkin leaves
I had to highlight “muboora” or pumpkin leaves. When my family and I lived in Germany in the 90’s our local supermarket used to discard all these beautiful pumpkin leaves each week. When some of the staff found out that we actually ate them (much to their surprise), they would leave bags of them for us to take home to cook! It certainly helped with the homesickness :).
They have the same benefits as muriwo as they come under the umbrella of being a dark green, leafy vegetable.
Dried fish are full of nutrients, including plenty of protein and omega 3 fatty acids. These are key in reducing stress and other mental health issues because they help to stimulate dopamine and serotonin – the “feel good” hormones of the body, which fight issues like anxiety.
These are flying termites…yes flying termites! They are very common in the month that we are coming up to – December. They are packed full of protein and thus have the same benefits as their comrades – kapenta!
So there you go…a few local and easily accessible foods that won’t break the bank that can assist Zimbabweans and other Africans in that region to reduce the effects of stress in a natural, safe way. Food is truly medicine!
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