What do you eat when you’re stressed out?
For most of my life the answer was quick comfort foods like pizza! To you it might be fried foods, sweet foods or alcohol and other substances.
Let’s face it, we’ve all found some comfort in substances that re not that good for us when we’ve been stressed out or upset about something.
When you’re turning to unhealthy foods they tend to give you a temporary feeling of satisfaction, but in the long run you always feel worse. When your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you can begin to feel less energetic, more lethargic, and in some cases less able to concentrate and focus. All of this can lead to even more stress and the viscous cycle begins again.
Foods that Fight Stress
Did you know that some foods have a range of properties that help the body naturally combat stress?
Choosing these stress-busting foods will help calm and heal your mind permanently, rather than providing a temporary fix.
If you’ve been feeling more stressed out than usual , it’s important to know which foods are best and which to avoid. 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, to eat seasonally and according to your unique constitution. I love using Ayurveda to tap into what foods are best for my unique mind and body type but here are a few stress busting foods for you to include in your diet no matter what:.
Avocado – Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit which can be eaten in a range of different ways whether you enjoy it raw, made into sauces, dressings and dips, or in 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.
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 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 to better deal with 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 which are high in sugars and caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks or soda, can actually increase your stress levels if consumed regularly. Chamomile tea has long been used as a natural bedtime soother, and it has also been used in clinical trials, which determined 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 our mood. Studies have shown that eating chocolate can actually make you 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 hugely important antioxidants which can help combat stress.
Beef – If you do consume meat, Grass-fed beef is not only kinder to the planet and to animals, it’s also good for people, too. 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 l higher in omega-3.
Oats – Oats is great in that it 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, 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.
Walnuts – If you’re looking for a healthy protein and fat option which will help you to stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. There is no denying the sweet, pleasant flavor of walnuts and they can be a tasty addition to meals or as part of a desert.
Pistachios – Another food which is great for snacking on 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 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 anyone’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, for example spinach, 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 diet will help you to feel happier and less stressed out overall.
Fermented foods – Last but not least, eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut can help to keep your gut healthy, which actually in turn will help to improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. The beneficial bacteria which are found in fermented foods actually have a direct effect on your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behaviour regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.
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.
A good example of a healthy, stress-busting menu would be:
Breakfast: Oats and nuts or A berry and avocado smoothie.
Lunch: A Buddha bowl of rice, leafy greens , vegetables and seeds or Grass-fed beef with vegetables.
Dinner: Stir-fry , Soup
Snacks (in moderation): Dark chocolate, Seeds, berries, pistachios
Before bed: Chamomile tea
You don’t need to stick to this menu and it can be refined perfectly to your constitution if you take an Ayurvedic approach to planning your nutrition but this little list gives you a good idea! You become what you eat so make sure that you’re filling yourself up with foods which are good for both your mental and physical health.