Feeling a bit stressed? You are not alone; most of us are. Usually when we talk about stress and eating, we’re advised against using foods to reduce unpleasant feelings. So, why do our bodies crave certain foods while stressed?
The reality is that the foods we eat can have a profound effect on our brains’ chemistry. In those stressful moments, by eating the right foods, we can boost feel-good brain chemicals to beat the blues and kick-start feeling awesome.
Instead of turning to the pint of ice-cream, which will only “benefit” your waistline, check out these 7 healthy picks below that have natural stress reducing powers far beyond the simple sugar high. Enjoy these 7 foods when you’re feeling a bit stressed—without moderation.
Stress Buster #1: Green Tea
As I’ve discussed in a previous article on fat burning here, green tea is Nature’s superman. It contains special antioxidants called catechins that burn fat, improve insulin sensitivity, prevent cancer, reduce hypertension, and enhance energy. Green tea is also rich in another unique compound called L-theanine, which has been shown to reduce anxiety, elevate mood, and promote restful sleep.
Tip: Start and end your busy days with a cup of warm green tea.
Substitutes: Like their green cousin, black and oolong teas are sidekicks that also pack a L-theanine punch.
Stress Buster #2: Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate, like green tea, contains unique antioxidant compounds called flavonoids, which are known for their relaxing properties. In fact, a prominent 2009 study showed that regular chocolate eaters have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition to the flavonoids, dark chocolate is rich in the amino acid Tryptophan, which is an essential precursor in the brain to the production of serotonin (a relaxing and mood balancing neurotransmitter).
Tip: Choose dark chocolate that is rich in cocoa solid but low in added sugar.
Substitutes: Tryptophan can also be found in almonds, sunflower seeds, and turkey.
Stress Buster #3: Wild Caught Salmon
Wild salmon is another one of nature’s superfoods. Rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, salmon has the power to help you burn fat, boost brain functioning, improve heart health, and relax. Researchers from Ohio State University showed that people given omega-3 supplements during stressful events showed a 20 percent decrease in anxiety in comparison to those given placebo.
Tip: Make a habit of consuming wild caught salmon at least once per week.
Substitutes: Chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, and shrimp are all good sources of omega-3s.
Stress Buster #4: Oatmeal
I have some bad news for the staunch low-carb advocates out there: carbohydrates are nature’s best mood balancer. Upon ingestion, carbohydrates naturally boost the brain’s production of the neurotransmitter serotonin—which as noted elevates mood and reduces anxiety. Opt for slower digesting, fibrous carbohydrates (like oatmeal and vegetables), as they will lead to a steady release of serotonin to keep you feeling awesome all day.
Tip: A bowl of steel cut oats with some berries would make for a perfect stress fighting breakfast.
Stress Buster #5: Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are no longer a Halloween staple. If you are feeling stressed, consuming Pumpkin seeds on a regular basis may be exactly what your body needs. When stressed, our bodies constrict arteries, elevate blood pressure, and increase heart rate. This “fight or flight” Nervous System response is fine in small doses, but chronic exposure leads to serious health complications.
Magnesium, a predominant mineral found in Pumpkin seeds, is a powerful relaxer for the body by helping decrease the body’s chronic “fight or flight” responses. The result? A calmer, happier you. 100 grams of pumpkin seeds (roughly ½ cup) contains 535 mg of magnesium (around 134% of your daily value).
Tip: Toss a handful of baked Pumpkin seeds on a salad for added crunch.
Stress Buster #6: Kiwi
Under that hairy skin, lies one of nature’s most potent stress busting foods. A little known fact is that Kiwi actually contains more Vitamin C than any citrus fruit, and Vitamin C is a critical component for beating stress. The basic neurochemistry is that our brains require adequate levels of Vitamin C as a cofactor to convert Tryptophan to Serotonin—which elicits mood enhancing/stress relieving effects.
Substitute: If kiwi-fruit scares you, try some of these other Vitamin C packed foods: strawberries, papaya, orange, grapefruit, and guava.
Stress Buster #7: Water
We saved the best (and most simple) solution for last—good ‘ol H2O. In fact, many people who experience headaches and low energy on a regular basis are actually chronically dehydrated. Here’s the scenario for many people:
You wake up in a dehydrated state (from not having drank water over the past 5-8 hours) and head straight for the coffee (a mild diuretic). It’s a busy day—running from meetings to finishing projects—and you simply forget to drink water. 6pm rolls around, and you return home, eat dinner, and go to bed. Repeat this process for several days, and you’re in an energy depleted, stressed out state.
Tip: To find a good baseline for your goal water intake, take your bodyweight (in pounds) and divide by 2. You just calculated the minimum ounces of water you should be drinking each day.
Pick one of these 7 stress-busting foods and incorporate it into your diet this week. Before starting your little experiment, rate your current stress level on a 1-10 scale. After a week, re-evaluate with the same 1-10 scale. I’d love to hear your experience.
Did I forget any stress relieving foods? Let me know in the comments below!
About the Author: Anthony Balduzzi – Over the past ten years, Anthony has dedicated his life to teaching people who are struggling with weight gain, stress, and low-energy levels how to create PERMANENT health change. Take Anthony’s FREE 3 Day Course to learn how to create ABUNDANT energy, FAST weight loss, and NEW vitality in just 45 MINUTES per week! Check Out Anthony’s Google+ Profile.