When you think of stress eating, the image that comes to mind is devouring a bag of chips or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s at the end of a long and stressful day. Too often, people that are stressed out turn to food as a source of comfort when they experience emotions that they cannot handle, and this results in weight gain, low self-esteem, and poor health. We may reach for foods that boost our endorphins and serotonin levels initially, but these are usually fat-laden, sugary disasters that only temporarily solve the problem.
With all of the adverse consequences arising from eating when stressed out, it’s likely to cause more anxiety and stress; no one wants to face the fact that their emotional indulgences have resulted in twenty extra pounds. What if we could use foods to heal ourselves and reduce our stress? Can we incorporate food into our stress relief techniques and improve our health significantly?
Below are some combinations of foods that we have found to be particularly successful in reducing stress, improving your health, and enhancing overall quality of life. Put on your apron, dust off those pots and pans, and use the items in your fridge and pantry to heal body, mind, and soul.
Here are some healthy things to eat (and drink) if you’re experiencing a lot of stress:
While certain types of teas contain moderate amounts of caffeine, studies have shown that sipping a few cups of tea daily reduces stress, promotes healthy sleep, and boosts mood. Amino acids present in green and black teas have a calming effect on the body, reducing the adverse effects that stress can have. Studies done on tea drinkers in 2006 concluded that black tea drinkers recovered from stress faster and were less stressed in general than those who didn’t take a little tea time on a regular basis. Invite your friends over for some afternoon tea and relax together.
Mmmmm….how can you go wrong with chocolate? Dark chocolate, in particular, has amazing health benefits. Regular consumers of dark chocolate had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone present in the body, than those who didn’t indulge their sweet tooth. Flavonoids present in dark chocolate boost antioxidant properties in the body, and they boost the “feel good chemicals” present in the brain.
Salmon, tuna, and other fish that are rich in omega 3’s are known to calm those of us who are stressed out. Regular consumption of omega 3’s can lower anxiety by almost 20 percent! Fatty fish can also inhibit the body’s own production of cortisol, making responses to stressful events much less taxing. Serve up some salmon over rice for a relaxing dinner at home.
While it is widely known that eating carbs is a natural mood booster, people tend to shy away from extra carbs these days. Oatmeal is a high fiber food, however, which packs an added nutritional punch by elevating your mood while taking hours longer to digest. That filling bowl of oatmeal is a day-long mood booster.
Magnesium is a mineral that is present in abundant quantities in most leafy, green vegetables. It is known to relax the muscles and aid in reducing anxiety. Nutrient power packed veggies like spinach and swiss chard have double portions of the mineral, so eat up!
A 2002 German study on citrus fruits found that healthy doses of vitamin C aided in recovery after stressful life events. Blood pressure and cortisol levels are dramatically reduced, and quality of sleep improved in patients taking higher quantities of vitamin C in their daily diets. Reach for an orange over an oreo for dessert, and you’ll feel better about life in general.