When you’re stressed out, the foods that you are eating are most likely going to be ‘comfort’ foods – think, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, alcohol and big meals. These foods can make you feel better temporarily, but eventually, you will feel worse. When your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you can begin to feel more “dis-ease” –less energetic, more lethargic and less able to concentrate. All of which can lead to even more stress.
If you have been feeling more stressed out than usual, it’s important to know which foods are best to choose 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- fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and dairy.
Filling up on foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, and lean proteins as the basic staples of the diet is the best way to ensure that your body gets the best amounts of nutrients.
Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:
Lean Protein– Protein comes in a variety of ways. When experiencing high levels of stress, try to eat more lean protein or vegetable protein. Protein is the building blocks for muscle and helps with brain function. If meat is your protein of choice, choose grass-fed meats. These meats have less stress causing chemicals.
Avocado – These nutrient-dense fruits have the properties to stress-proof your body. Avocados also have higher levels of vitamin E, folate and beta-carotene, which boosts their stress-busting properties. However, be careful with portion control when eating avocado, as it is high in fat.
Blueberries –Blueberries are a superfood. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants, they have been linked to health benefits including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind – all of which can help you to better deal with stress.
Chamomile Tea – Drinking liquids which are high in sugars and caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks or soda, can 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 found that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Chocolate – Studies have shown that eating chocolate can make you happier. Chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Dark chocolate is the best for you, as it has more flavonoids and polyphenols, two hugely important antioxidants which can help combat stress.
Oatmeal – A well known comfort food, 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 eat oatmeal for breakfast tend to be much sharper throughout the morning in school compared to kids who had alternative morning meals.
Walnuts – Walnuts have a sweet, pleasant flavor and they can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as part of a desert. They are great for salads or add them to a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake. Walnuts are considered brain food- due to it brain like appearance.
Pistachios – Studies have found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower restriction to your veins, putting less pressure on your heart by further dilating your arteries. Along with this, the rhythmic, repetitive act of shelling pistachios can be quite therapeutic!
Green Leafy Vegetables – Leafy greens are full of nutrients 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, serotonin, which is a ‘feel-good’ chemical.
Fermented foods – The beneficial bacteria which are found in fermented foods such as yogurt have a direct effect on your brain chemistry and send positive mood and behavior regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve. Sauerkraut is also a fermented food.
Having stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, yogurt, walnuts or pistachios, or even a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens can help you to feel better in both the short and long term when it comes to stress. When it comes to combating and dealing with stress in the long run, it’s important to make sure that for the most part, you are eating a diet which is healthy and balanced, including protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fat.
An example of a healthy, stress-busting menu:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and berries
Mid-morning snack: Greek yogurt with fruit or a handful of walnuts
Lunch: A whole-grain pasta salad filled with plenty of leafy greens and lean protein
Afternoon snack: Dark chocolate and natural peanut butter
Dinner: Lean Protein with vegetables
Before bed: Chamomile tea
Brandi D. Phillips is a health and wellness freelance writer. She is a mother and wife, and a free-spirited lover of life.