Foods that Reduce Stress
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When you’re stressed out, the foods you’re turning to are highly likely to be traditional ‘comfort’ foods. For example, big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and white breads and grains, even excessive alcohol.
It’s true that when you turn to these types of foods, you often feel better. However, in the long run, you’re likely to feel worse. This is because when your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you feel less energetic, and less able to concentrate and focus. So what kinds of food help reduce stress?
Foods that Reduce Stress
Filling up on whole grains, vegetables, fruit, low fat dairy and lean proteins is a great place to start.
These basic staples provide your body optimum amounts of nutrients. Not only that, but they work to fight both physical and mental health problems. Plus, these foods are less expensive than eating out!
Some of the best stress relieving foods include:
Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit. They can be eaten in a range of ways. For example, raw, in sauces, dressings and dips, or in a smoothie. Avocadoes have the properties to stress-proof your body. they also contain higher levels of vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene than any other fruit. These antioxidants and vitamins boost the benefits of avocadoes even more. However, be careful with portion control when eating avocado, as it is a source of good fats.
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 anthocyanins. Blueberries are linked to a wide range of health benefits including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind. Thus, eating more blueberries may help you to better deal with stress.
Chamomile tea has long been used as a natural bedtime soother, and it has also been used in clinical trials. These trials have shown that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Dark chocolate in particular is best for you, because it contains more flavanols and polyphenols than milk chocolate. Flavanols and polyphenols are hugely important antioxidants which can help combat stress.
Grass-fed beef is not only kinder to the planet and to animals, it’s also good for people, too. 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 as well as higher in omega-3 fats.
Oatmeal is a healthy, filling comfort food. And oatmeal contains health properties to make you feel better from the inside out. For example, eating oatmeal causes your brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin. This may calm you down and help you feel 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.
If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option which will help you control 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 or part of a healthy dessert. A versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads, or add them to a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake.
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 greens, including kale, spinach, collar greens, and broccoli are full of nutrients and antioxidants to fight off disease. 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 diet will help you to feel happier and less stressed out overall.
Last but not least, eat fermented foods such as yogurt can help to keep your gut healthy. A healthy gut will improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. Beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics, are found in fermented foods including yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut. The action of probiotics are shown to positively effect your brain chemistry.
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 to snack on when you’re feeling worried and anxious is important to helping you get control over your emotions and fears.
As I mentioned previously, foods laden with sugar, are overly starchy, or greasy contribute to stress.
Eat stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, yogurt, walnuts or pistachios. Or sip on a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens. Overall, when combating and dealing with stress, it’s important that your diet is balanced.
In order to stay on track, it’s a good idea to make a meal plan for your week and plan ahead.
Make sure the majority of your meals include foods that reduce stress. You will feel healthier overall, and your mental health will improve as well.
A good example of a healthy, stress-busting menu would be:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and berries OR
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, this menu is just an example. But it gives you a good idea! Remember to exercise good 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.
For healthy versions of comfort foods, check out my cookbook here.
Below is a super popular course I created to help your kids learn how to plan some healthy, budget-friendly meals:
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