10 Stress-Busting Foods Anyone Can Enjoy
There is no question we are living through some highly stressful times. And, unfortunately, most of us, usually turn to the more traditional ‘comfort’ foods – big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and alcohol.
We know – not only do some of these poorer choices taste great, but such snacking will almost always take our minds off the stresses we are facing, at least temporarily.
Truth be told, almost everyone has found some comfort in an unhealthy, tasty meal and a bottle of beer or glass of wine when we’ve been stressed out or upset about something.
While this is ok from time to time, this certainly isn’t a good long-term solution to fighting the stresses of life.
When you’re turning to unhealthy foods you may feel better temporarily, but in the long run, you will feel worse.
When your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you can begin to feel less energetic, more lethargic, and in some cases less able to concentrate and focus. All of this can lead to even more stress.
How about we change this pattern once and for all?
Foods to Fight Stress
If you’re one of those who has been feeling a bit more stressed than usual lately, you might really benefit from knowing which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when it comes to minimizing the anxiety.
There is no question, a healthy, balanced diet which includes a moderate amount of each of the different food groups will work wonders on not only how you look, but how you feel as well.
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 optimum amounts of nutrients to fight both physical and mental health problems.
When it comes to choosing the foods to eat, some have a range of great properties which help the body combat stress. Choosing these stress-busting foods will help to heal and calm your mind permanently, rather than providing a temporary fix.
Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:
Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit which can be eaten in a range of different ways whether you enjoy it raw, made into sauces, dressings and dips, or in a smoothie. These nutrient-dense fruits have the properties to stress-proof your body, thanks to their high glutathione content which specifically blocks the intestinal absorption of certain fats which cause oxidative damage. Avocados also contain higher levels of vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene than any other fruit, which boosts their stress-busting properties. However, be careful with portion control when eating avocado, as avocados are high in fat and easy to overindulge in.
If you’re feeling stressed out and reaching for the snacks, swapping cookies 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 antho-cyanin, which means that this berry has been linked to a wide range of health benefits including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind – all of which can help you to better deal with stress.
Of course, it’s not all about what you’re eating when it comes to managing stress; what you’re drinking can also alleviate or worsen the stress you're feeling. Drinking liquids which are high in sugars and caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks, or soda, can actually 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 determined that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Although it’s usually seen as an unhealthy treat, there is an undeniable link between chocolate and our mood. Studies have shown that eating chocolate can actually make you happier. However, that doesn’t mean that you can start munching on chocolate bars every time you're stressed out – chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Dark chocolate in particular is best for you, as it contains more flavonols and polyphenols, two hugely important antioxidants which can help combat stress, more than many fruit juices.
Grass-fed beef is not only kinder to the planet and to animals, it’s also good for people, too. Grass-fed beef has a huge range of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and Vitamins C and E, which can help your body to fight stress and anxiety. 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 whilst being higher in omega-3.
Oatmeal is great in that it can be a filling comfort food, but also has a large number of healthy properties to actually make you feel better from the inside out. A complex carbohydrate, 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 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 to stay better in control of 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 for in-between meals or as part of a desert. A versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads, or add them to a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake.
Pistachios are another great snack food that can help combat stress and anxiety. 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, green vegetables should be a pivotal part of anyone’s diet. Along with helping to combat stress, leafy greens are full of nutrients and antioxidants which help to fight off disease and leave your body feeling healthier and more energized. Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, 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, eating fermented foods such as yogurt can help to keep your gut healthy, which, in turn, will actually help improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. The beneficial bacteria which are found in fermented foods such as yogurt actually have a direct effect on your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behavior regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.
Putting Your Stress-Busting Diet Together
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 stress levels.
Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best to reach for to snack on when you’re feeling worried and anxious will go a long way to helping you get control over your emotions and/or fears, when they arise.
As previously discussed, while it might be common to reach for those more classic ‘comfort foods’ – the ones usually laden with sugar, very starchy, or greasy, when you feel anxious or uptight, the momentary improvement you may feel will eventually pass, leaving more bad than good in the long run.
Having stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, yogurt, walnuts or pistachios, or even a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens in it can help you to feel better in both the short and long term when it comes to stress.
Remember, the best “diet” is the one that is healthy, balanced, and sustainable.
In order to stay on track, it’s a good idea to make a meal plan for your week and plan ahead to make sure that you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in your kitchen to make meals and snacks from when you’re feeling like stress-eating.
Making sure that the majority of your meals include foods such as lean proteins and leafy green vegetables will not only make you feel healthier overall, but can improve your mental health and stress levels, too.
A good example of a healthy, stress-busting menu would be:
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and berries
- 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, the above is not meant to be a daily diet for you, or anyone else specifically, but merely provide some ideas as to how you could implement some of the best stress-busting foods available.
As the saying goes, you are what you eat – so make sure first and foremost, you’re filling yourself up with foods which are good for your mental health and exercising good portion control when enjoying foods such as nuts, chocolate, yogurt, or avocado!
Let us know which peace finding foods you favor!
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Now, onward! You only have one life to live, one body to live it in...so take care of it. Progress, not perfection. Good, better, best with your food intake and some form of "movement" daily. Get your nutritional foundation from food, supplement where necessary, and drink plenty of water.
And, don’t forget, always consult your physician before making any changes to your diet or exercise regiment.
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