Eat Your Stress Away!
(Yes you read that right)
We all know that when we are stressed, we turn to our comfort foods. You know the ones; burger and fries, mac and cheese, a nice tall drink, wine, beer, brownies and cakes etc. Now, your mouth may be watering but stop right there, this is not a sustainable solution. See, when your body isn’t getting the proper nutrition, you start feeling lethargic, less energetic, and tired which affects your focus and concentration, in turn leading to more stress. It’s just a vicious cycle that you don’t need or deserve. The good news is that we have a solution that will both satisfy your cravings and reduce your stress.
Stress Reducing Diet
Foods that Fight Stress
I know what you’re thinking – “Foods that are healthy are not as satisfying as the foods I crave when I’m stressed”. This is not necessarily true. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet which includes a moderate amount of each of the different food groups. We won’t lie to you, there will be an adjustment period but in the long-run you will feel so much better, calmer and clearer and the choices are also delicious.
So, rather than choosing a temporary and guilt-ridden food option, try adding whole grains, leafy vegetables, and lean proteins as basic staples of your diet. These tasty and energy-boosting choices will ensure that your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to fight both physical and mental health issues.
Let’s look at some great stress-busting foods that are easy to incorporate into any diet.
- Avocados – Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit which can be eaten in a range of different ways. Whether you enjoy them raw, whisked into sauces, dressings and dips, or in a delicious smoothie, this nutrient-dense fruit has the properties to stress-proof your body, thanks to their high glutathione content which specifically blocks the intestinal absorption of certain fats which cause oxidative damage. Avocados also contain higher levels of vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene than any other fruit, which boosts their stress-busting properties. Be careful though, this beautiful fruit is high in fat so don’t overdo it.
- Blueberries – If you’re feeling stressed out and reaching for a sweet or salty snack, swap chips or ice cream for one of the best and tastiest superfoods on earth. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants, especially antho-cyanin, which means that this berry has been linked to a wide range of health benefits including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind – all of which can help you better deal with stress and reach a higher level of inner peace.
- Chamomile Tea – Instead of reaching for that soda or super frapuccino light cream, caramel blab bla bla, try a nice cup of chamomile tea. First of all, it’s super tasty. Second, it’s like peace in a cup. Drinking liquids which are high in sugars and caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks and sodas, can and often will lead to increased stress levels. Clinical trials have proven that chamomile tea is effective in reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorders which is why it has long been used as a natural bedtime soother. Go on, make yourself a cup now.
- Chocolate – We told you there was good news! Although chocolate is usually seen as an unhealthy treat, there is an undeniable link between chocolate and how it affects our mood. Studies have shown that eating chocolate can actually make you happier. However, that doesn’t mean you can start binging on chocolate bars every time you’re stressed out. Chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Dark chocolate in particular is best as it contains more flavonols and polyphenols, two hugely important antioxidants which can help combat stress. Now, once again, consume in moderation.
- Beef – Yes, beef! Your best bet is grass-fed beef. It’s not only kinder to the environment and animals, it’s also good for us. Grass-fed beef has a huge range of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and Vitamin C and E, which helps your body fight stress and anxiety. Grass-fed beef may be a little more expensive but it is considerably lower in fat than traditional beef while being higher in omega-3. It’s money well spent. Trust us!
- Oatmeal – What? Oatmeal? Yes, Oatmeal! Oatmeal is great because it’s versatile. It can be a comfort food or a sweet snack if you add berries. Oatmeal also has a large number of healthy properties that will actually make you feel better from the inside out. As a complex carbohydrate, oatmeal causes your brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, helping you to feel calmer and less stressed. Studies have shown that kids who choose oatmeal for breakfast tend to be much sharper throughout the morning in school compared to kids who had alternative morning meals. You can’t argue with that now can you?
- Walnuts – Both healthy and delicious! Walnuts are a healthy snack that helps reduce stress levels. There is no denying the sweet, satisfying flavor of walnuts that can serve as a tasty snack in-between meals or as part of a healthy desert. Walnuts are so versatile in that you can add them to salads, sweet treats or even your coffee.
- Pistachios – It just keep getting better! Pistachios are great for snacking (obsessively) and can also help combat stress and anxiety. Studies have found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction, putting less pressure on your heart by further dilating your arteries. Along with this, the rhythmic, repetitive act of shelling pistachios can actually be quite therapeutic. It’s important to stick to the recommended serving size though (don’t obsess).
- Green Leafy Vegetables – leafy, green vegetables should be a pivotal part of everyone’s diet. Along with stress combatting properties, leafy greens are full of nutrients and antioxidants which help fight diseases and leaves your body feeling healthier and more energized. Dark leafy greens like spinach or arugula, are especially good for you since they are rich in folate, which helps your body to produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ chemical. Including leafy greens a staple in your diet will help you feel happier and less stressed-out overall. They are also very kind to the waistline.
- Fermented foods –Don’t get turned off by the description. Fermented foods are actually tasty. They include yoghurt and cheese! Eating fermented foods helps your gut health, which improves mental health and reduces stress levels. This beneficial bacteria has a direct effect on brain chemistry and transmits positive mood and behavior regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve. How great is that?
Putting it all together. Your Diet Plan.
Planning your meals wisely will keep you physically fit and healthy. The added bonus is that it will make you mentally stronger and able to better manage stress levels. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best to reach for when that need to snack hits in times of stress and anxiety is important in gaining control over your emotions and fears. Traditional comfort foods may make you feel better temporarily but actually cause you more turmoil in the long-run. Choose wisely!
Choosing stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, yogurt, walnuts, pistachios, or even a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens can help you feel better, both in the short and long term. When it comes to combatting stress, it’s important to make sure that for the most part, you are eating a healthy and balanced diet.
In order to stay on track and really benefit from these natural and delicious foods, plan your meals ahead of time to avoid impulse eating. It’s a great idea to create a meal plan for your week in advance to make sure that you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in your kitchen or office at all times. It may take a little getting used to but your mind and body will thank you. Now, get to it…start planning!