Eat Your Stress Goodbye – Stress Reducing Diet
When you’re stressed out, the foods that you’re turning to are most likely going to be traditional ‘comfort’ foods – think big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and alcohol. Let’s face it – we’ve all found some comfort in a tasty meal and a bottle of beer or glass of wine when we’ve been stressed out or upset about something. However, this is not the best choice, or a wise, permanent solution.
Comfort foods help you feel better temporarily, but in the long run, you will feel worse. When your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you can begin to feel less energetic, more inflamed, 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 [who hasn’t?], it’s important to know which foods are best to choose and which to avoid. Food can HELP or HARM your coping with or combating stress, and how you deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. A foundational way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet which includes a moderate amount of each of the different food groups.
Taking in your fill on foods such as leafy vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins as the basic staples of the diet is the best way to ensure that your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to fight both physical and mental health problems. When it comes to choosing the foods to eat, some have a greater range of properties which help the body to combat stress. Choosing these stress-busting foods will help to heal and calm your mind permanently, rather than providing a temporary fix, with delayed regret!
Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:
- Avocado – Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit which can be eaten in so many ways — enjoy it raw, make into sauces, dressings and dips, or add to a smoothie. 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. Just be careful with portion control when eating avocado, as it is high in fat.
- Blueberries – If you’re feeling stressed out and reaching for the snacks, swapping chocolate 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 greatest levels of antioxidants, especially antho-cyanin. This 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 handle stress.
- Chamomile Tea – Of course, it’s not all about what you’re eating when it comes to managing stress; what you’re drinking can also alleviate or worsen the stress you’re feeling. Drinking liquids high in sugars and caffeine – such as coffee, energy drinks or soda – can actually increase your stress levels if consumed too often. Chamomile tea has long been used as a natural bedtime soother, and it has also been used in clinical trials, determining that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
- Chocolate – Although it’s usually seen as an unhealthy treat, there is an undeniable link between chocolate and mood. Studies have shown that eating chocolate can actually make you feel happier. However, that doesn’t mean that you can start munching 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 for you, as it contains more flavonols and polyphenols – two important antioxidants which can help combat stress.
- Beef – Grass-fed beef has a huge range of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and Vitamins C and E, which can help your body to fight stress and anxiety. If you’re looking for more reasons to spend a little more money on organic, grass-fed beef, it’s also lower in fat than grain-fed beef while being higher in omega-3. *** Use your meat consumption wisely — there is a big difference between a fast food burger and a high quality grass-fed meat. When we do eat red meat, I don’t skimp on cost over this one.
- Oatmeal – Oatmeal (rolled oats or steel-cut oats) can be a filling comfort food, but also has a large number of healthy properties to actually make you feel better from the inside out. A complex carbohydrate, eating oatmeal causes your brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, aiding you in feeling calmer and less stressed. Studies have shown that kids who choose oatmeal for breakfast tend to be much sharper throughout the morning in schoolwork when compared to kids who had alternative sugary morning meals.
- Walnuts – If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option which will help you to stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. They can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as part of a desert. A versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads; or add them to a sweet treat such as a healthy coffee walnut cake.
- Pistachios – Studies have found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when you are stressed, 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!
- Green Leafy Vegetables – Leafy, green vegetables should be a pivotal part of everyone’s diets! 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 are especially good for you since they are rich in folate, which helps your body to produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is a ‘feel-good’ chemical. Making leafy greens a part of your daily life will help you to feel happier and less stressed out.
- Fermented foods – Last but not least, eating fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, can assist in gut health, which actually in turn will help to improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods actually have a direct affect on your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behavior regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.
Putting Together Your Diet Plan
Planning your meals wisely is key to not only staying physically fit and healthy, but also to staying mentally strong and being able to best manage your levels of stress. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best to-reach-for snacks when you’re feeling worried and anxious is important.
Under an active stress emotion, you may be tempted to reach for classic ‘comfort foods’ – usually foods which are laden with sugar, starches, and greasy, unhealthy fats. Avoid the short-term gain with the longterm regret.
Have stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, yogurt, walnuts or pistachios… a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens instead. If you have them accessible, you will be more likely to grab them!
To stay on track, make a meal plan for your week to make sure that you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in your kitchen. YOU have the control when YOU ensure that the majority of your meals include foods such as lean proteins and leafy green vegetables! Not only will you feel healthier overall, but you will improve your confidence, mental health, and stress levels, too.
An example of a healthy, stress-busting menu:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and berries
Mid-morning snack: Natural yogurt with fruit or a handful of pistachio nuts
Lunch: A whole-grain pasta salad filled with plenty of leafy greens
Afternoon snack: Dark chocolate
Dinner: Grass-fed beef with vegetables
Before bed: Chamomile tea
Of course, you don’t need to stick to this menu – but it gives you a good strategy! 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 which are good for your mental health!
It’s a Journey!