When you’re stressed out, the foods that you turn to are most likely going to be ‘comfort’ foods. These will usually include big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and alcohol.
It is a fact that we’ve all found some comfort in a tasty meal and a bottle of beer or glass of wine when under a lot of stress or when upset about something. But, this usually is never a permanent solution.
When you turn to unhealthy foods, you can feel better temporarily but then feel worse in the end. When you’re not getting the right nutrients, you’ll have low energy, feel lethargic and suffer a lack of focus. All of this can lead to even more stress.
The type of foods you eat can affect your ability to fight stress. When stressed, it is important to know the foods to eat and the ones to avoid to combat stress and to deal with anxiety. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy balanced diet.
When you fill-up on whole grains, leafy vegetables, and lean proteins, you give your body the required nutrients to fight both physical and mental health problems.
Some foods have more stress-fighting properties that can help your body to fight stress. Choosing these stress-busting foods will help you heal and calm your mind for good, rather than providing a temporary fix.
Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:
Avocados are creamy and versatile fruits that you can eat raw, make into sauces, dressings and dips, or smoothies. These nutrient-dense fruits have properties that can stress-proof your body. They are high in glutathione which blocks the absorption of certain fats in the intestines, which cause oxidative damage.
They also contain higher levels of vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene than any other fruit. Yet, don’t go overboard and eat as much as you want because they are high in fat and have more calories per gram.
When you’re stressed, swapping chocolate for blueberries is a great way to help you deal with your stress and also get a sense of calm.
Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants. They also have a wide range of health benefits including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind. These properties can help you to better deal with stress.
What you drink can either ease or worsen your stress levels. Drinking liquids high in sugars and caffeine can increase your stress levels if consumed regularly.
Chamomile tea is a natural bedtime soother and is effective in reducing the symptoms of general anxiety disorder.
So, if you have too much on your mind and have trouble falling asleep, a cup of Chamomile tea will calm your nerves to help you fall asleep within minutes.
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.
Chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy diet. Dark chocolate, in particular, is best for you, as it contains more flavonoids and polyphenols. These two important antioxidants can help fight stress, more than many fruit juices.
Grass-fed beef has a huge range of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and Vitamin C and E. These antioxidants can help your body to fight stress and anxiety. Grass-fed beef is lower in fat than grain-fed beef and is higher in omega-3.
Oatmeal is great in that it can be filling comfort food, but also has a large number of health benefits. This complex carbohydrate triggers the production of serotonin in the brain that helps you to feel calmer.
Studies have shown that kids who eat oatmeal for breakfast tend to be much sharper than those who have alternative morning meals.
If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option that will help you better control your stress levels, then walnuts are a great choice. They have a sweet, pleasant flavour and they can be a perfect snack or as part of a desert.
A versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads or you can add them to a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake.
Another food that is great for snacking and that can also help to combat stress and anxiety in the long term is pistachios. Eating two small portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when under stress.
This has an effect of 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 that help fight off disease.
Dark leafy greens such as spinach are rich in folate, which helps your body to produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Making leafy greens a part of your diet will help you to feel happier and less stressed out.
Eating fermented foods such as yoghurt can help keep your gut healthy, and as a result, help to improve your mental health and reduce stress levels.
The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods have a direct effect on your brain chemistry. They help in transmitting positive mood and behaviour regulating signals to your brain.
Putting Together Your Diet Plan
Planning your meals is key to not only staying fit and healthy but also to staying mentally strong with an ability to manage stress better.
Knowing which foods to avoid when you’re feeling worried and anxious is important to help you get control over your emotions and fears.
To stay on track, plan ahead to make sure you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in your kitchen to make meals and snacks.
Include lean proteins and leafy green vegetables in your meals to feel healthier and to improve your mental health.
Here’s a good example of a healthy stress-busting menu:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and berries
Mid-morning snack: Natural yoghurt 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 idea. Remember to exercise portion control when eating foods such as nuts, chocolate, yoghurt or avocado. You are what you eat, so fill yourself up with foods that are good for your mind and body.
Would you like to take charge of your eating and your health? I’ve created a healthy eating guide to help you do that. Click the following link to get your free healthy eating guide: 7 Steps to Healthy Eating