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 isn’t a good permanent solution.
When you’re turning to unhealthy foods you can 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 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, it’s important to know which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when it comes to combating stress and helping you to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. 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.
Filling up on foods such as leafy vegetables, healthy fats, 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 range of great 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.
Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:
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. 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. They 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 anthocyanin, 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, more than many fruit juices. However, try to limit dark chocolate to 2oz per day, as recent reports suggest a possibility of lead and cadmium contamination.
GRASS-FED BEEF: Grass-fed beef (compared to conventionally raised beef fed grain & corn) 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 Vit-amins 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 whilst being higher in omega-3.
OATMEAL: Oatmeal 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. To lower the glycemic index, I like to whisk in an egg while cooking and add flax, hemp, and chia seeds after it cools.
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. There is no denying the sweet, pleasant flavor of walnuts and 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 coffee and walnut cake.
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 yogurt 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 such as yogurt actually have a direct effect on your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behavior regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.
Putting Together Your Anti-Stress Meal Plan
When you’re feeling stressed, you may be tempted to reach for classic ‘comfort foods’ – which are usually laden with sugar, very starchy, or greasy. However, although these foods can make you feel momentarily better, they will actually make you feel worse in the long run.
That's why planning your meals wisely is key; not only for staying physically fit and healthy, but also for staying mentally strong so that you can best manage your stress. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best to reach for to snack on when you’re feeling worried and anxious is important to helping you get control over your emotions and fears. Having snacks or smoothies containing the foods listed above can help you to feel better in both the short and long term.
In order to stay on track, it’s a good idea to make a meal plan for your week and plan ahead to make sure that you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in your kitchen to make meals and snacks from when you feel like stress-eating. Making sure that the majority of your meals include foods such as lean proteins, healthy fats, and leafy green vegetables will not only make you feel healthier overall, but can improve your mental health and stress levels, too.
A good example of a healthy, stress-busting menu would be:
Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with berries, nuts & seeds, or a fruit smoothie with avocado, spinach, and berries
Mid-morning snack: Unsweetened Greek yogurt with fruit or a handful of pistachio nuts
Lunch: A whole-grain pasta or legume salad filled with plenty of leafy greens
Afternoon snack: Dark chocolate
Dinner: Grass-fed beef with vegetables
Before bed: Chamomile tea
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.
Of course, food is not the only way to combat the adverse effects of stress on your body. Click HERE to book a free strategy call to discuss how I can help you feel better using a functional medicine approach.