When you’re stressed out, the foods you turn to may most likely be traditional ‘comfort’ foods.
Think big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and alcohol. Let’s face it – we’ve all found comfort in a tasty meal, a bottle of beer, or a glass of wine when we’ve been stressed out or upset about something. However, this isn’t a good permanent solution.
When you turn to unhealthy foods, you can feel better temporarily, but in the long run, you will feel worse. When your body isn’t getting the proper nutrition, you can feel less energetic, more lethargic, and in some cases, less able to concentrate and focus. All of this can lead to even more stress.
Foods that Fight Stress
If you’ve been feeling more stressed out than usual lately, knowing which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when combating stress and helping you deal with stress and anxiety is essential. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet that includes a moderate amount of each of the different food groups.
Filling up on foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, and lean proteins as the basic staples of your diet is the best way to ensure that your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to fight both physical and mental health problems. In addition, when choosing foods to eat, some have a range of excellent properties that can help the body combat stress. Choosing these stress-busting foods will help to heal and calm your mind permanently, rather than providing a temporary fix.
Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:
Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit that can be eaten in various ways, whether you enjoy them raw, made into sauces, dressings, dips, or in smoothies. In addition, these nutrient-dense fruits have 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. However, be careful with portion control when eating avocados, as they are high in fat.
If you’re feeling stressed out and reaching for snacks, swapping candy bars or chips for one of the best superfoods is a great way to help you deal with your stress levels and achieve a higher level of calm.
Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants, especially anthocyanin. As a result, this berry is 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.
Of course, it’s not all about what you’re eating when managing stress; what you’re drinking can also alleviate or worsen the stress you’re feeling. For example, drinking beverages high in sugars and caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks, or soda, can increase stress levels if consumed regularly.
Chamomile tea can be a great swap for other beverages to calm and soothe feelings of stress. In addition, it can be beneficial before bedtime to help improve sleep.
Researchers have studied chamomile tea in clinical trials. They determined that chamomile tea effectively reduces generalized anxiety disorder symptoms.
Although most people think of chocolate as an unhealthy treat, there is an undeniable link between it and mood. In addition, studies have shown that eating chocolate can make you happier. However, that doesn’t mean that you should start munching on candy bars every time you’re stressed out – it works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation (one to two ounces) and as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
Dark chocolate is best for you as it contains more flavonols and polyphenols, two hugely essential antioxidants which can help combat stress, more than many fruit juices.
Chickpeas contain stress-fighting vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper. They also have the amino acid L-tryptophan, which your body uses to produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Studies have shown that foods rich in plant proteins like chickpeas may improve brain health.
Oatmeal is excellent in that it can be a filling comfort food. It also has many beneficial properties to make you feel better from the inside out. 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.
In addition, 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.
If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option to help you stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. There is no denying the sweet, pleasant flavor of walnuts, which can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as part of a desert.
A versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads, or you can add them to oatmeal or make them into a meat-free taco filling.
Another food that is great for snacking and can also help to combat stress and anxiety in the long term is pistachios.
Studies have found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when stressed, putting less pressure on your heart by further dilating your arteries. Along with this, the rhythmic, repetitive act of shelling pistachios can be quite therapeutic!
Green Leafy Vegetables
Leafy, green vegetables should be a pivotal part of everyone’s diet. Along with helping to combat stress, leafy greens are full of nutrients and antioxidants, which help to fight off disease and leave your body feeling healthier and more energized.
Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, are rich in folate.
Folate helps your body produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin. So, making leafy greens a part of your diet will help you feel happier and less stressed.
Finally, eating fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, or sauerkraut can help keep your gut healthy. A healthy gut will help improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. In addition, the beneficial bacteria in fermented foods directly affect your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behavior regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.
Putting Together Your Meal Plan
Planning your meals well is key to not only staying physically fit and healthy but also to staying mentally strong and managing stress levels. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best to reach for to snack on when you’re feeling worried and anxious is vital to helping you get control over your emotions and fears.
You may want to reach for classic comfort foods when you feel stressed– usually foods that are laden with sugar, starches, or grease. However, although these foods can make you feel momentarily better, they will make you feel worse in the long run.
Having stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, roasted chickpeas, walnuts, pistachios, or even a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens can help you to feel better in the moment and the long run when it comes to stress. However, when it comes to combating and dealing with stress long-term, it’s essential to ensure you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet.
To stay on track, it’s a good idea to make a meal plan for your week to make sure that you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods available to make meals and snacks when you feel like stress-eating. In addition, making sure that most of your meals include foods such as lean proteins and leafy green vegetables will make you feel healthier overall and can improve your mental health and stress levels, too.
An excellent example of a healthy, stress-busting menu would be:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and berries
Mid-morning snack: A handful of pistachios or walnuts.
Lunch: A Buddha Bowl with brown rice, kimchi, chickpeas, avocado, spinach, and other vegetables.
Afternoon snack: An ounce or two of dark chocolate or a handful of berries.
Dinner: Dark leafy green salad with chickpeas, walnuts, broccoli, and tahini dressing.
Before bed: Chamomile tea
Of course, you don’t need to stick to this menu – but it gives you a good starting point. Remember to exercise portion control when eating foods such as nuts, chocolate, yogurt, or avocado.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat – so make sure that, first and foremost, you’re filling yourself up with foods that are good for your body and mind!
PS – Whenever you’re ready… Here are 4 ways I can help you shift from settling for the results you’re getting to feeling stronger and sexier than when you were younger!
- Learn about your body type with my free Dosha quiz. It takes just 2 minutes, and you’ll get a few bonus tips that you can start using right away!
- Join other like-minded people taking control of their health in my Peace Run Yoga Facebook Group! It’s a place to share ideas, get advice, and meet others on a health journey.
- Join me for a live yoga class from the comfort of your own home. Check out the online class schedule and sign up!
- Get private coaching with me to step off the health rollercoaster. Send me an email with the words “I’m ready” in the subject line. Tell me a little about your current health and what you’d like to work on together, and I’ll get you all the details!