We all have stress, but the way we handle it makes a huge difference. There are many ways to manage stress, and one of them includes the foods you eat. Many of us turn to food during our stressful times, and most of the time, we don’t notice that our “comfort food” is taking a toll on our health.
How do we tame stress with foods?
Stress over time causes your body to produce high levels of adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are beneficial in fight or flight situations as they help you perform better physically in short spurts. You run faster, feel stronger, see and hear better, but in prolonged situations they take a toll on your body over time, affecting your heart, immune and digestive systems, and other organs.
Eating a healthy diet lowers the impact of stress on the body by increasing your immune system’s effectiveness and lowering blood pressure. For example, a bowl of warm oatmeal not only increases your dietary fiber consumption but also boosts your serotonin levels, a brain chemical often found in the digestive system and throughout the nervous system. The following are just some of the foods that tame stress.
Complex Carbohydrates: Whole grain bread, oatmeal, and low/no sugar breakfast cereals are good choices of complex carbohydrates that prompt the brain to produce more serotonin. By consuming complex carbs, your blood sugar levels are more balanced while providing you a steady supply of serotonin or “feel-good” chemical; because the body digests it slowly.
Oranges for Vitamin C: Apart from fiber, oranges are sweet, juicy, and contain lots of vitamin C. This vitamin strengthens our immune system and can also curb stress hormones. Studies show that vitamin C can help normalize blood pressure and cortisol quickly to people who take it before doing a stressful task. If you don’t like peeling and eating the whole fruit, try a glass of natural no-sugar-added orange juice instead.
Spinach for Magnesium: Are you experiencing a lot of headaches lately? Your body might be lacking magnesium. Increased stress can prompt the body to excrete more magnesium in the urine. To stock up on magnesium, eat spinach! A cup of spinach should do the trick or if you don’t like it, try other green, leafy vegetables. Another source of magnesium is walnuts, a great healthy snack on the go.
Black Tea: An excellent stress hormone buster, the calming effects of black tea help you recover from stress causing events more quickly. Another study shows that people who drink 4 cups of tea daily have lower cortisol levels and feel much calmer after a stressful situation.
Pistachios for Healthy Fats: Nuts and seeds are excellent sources of healthy fats. A handful of pistachios, almonds, or walnuts daily can help you control cholesterol and ease inflammation of your heart’s arteries. Consuming nuts can lower your risk of diabetes and protect you from stress. However, nuts are high in calories so don’t overindulge.
Avocados for Potassium: You can lower your risk of high blood pressure by meeting your potassium needs. Avocados are richer in potassium than bananas; in fact, half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. Therefore, it wouldn’t hurt to have some guacamole whenever you are craving a high fat treat.
Almonds for Vitamin B and E: A quarter cup of almonds helps you become more resilient to stress or depression because of their high levels of essential vitamins like vitamin E and B.
Lastly, eating is a pleasurable activity. It nourishes your body and mind; however, eating too much can be detrimental. Be sure to watch your food portions and always have healthy food choices available so you can make better choices daily, in stressful, food craving moments.