Updated: May 22, 2022
Eat Your Stress Goodbye
When you’re stressed out, the foods you’re turning to will most likely be traditional ‘comfort’ foods – think big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and alcohol. Realistically—we have all found some comfort in a tasty meal and a bottle of beer or glass of wine when we have been stressed out or upset about something. As good as this makes us all feel in the moment, this isn’t a sustainable solution to manage our stress and instead makes stress management harder to deal with in the long-range. When your body isn’t getting the proper nutrition, you can begin to feel less energetic, more lethargic, experience headaches, and sometimes brain fog and decreased concentration and focus. All of this can eventually lead to even more stress.
Foods that Fight Stress
If you’ve been feeling more stressed out than usual lately, it’s essential to know which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when it comes to combating stress and helping you to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet that includes a moderate amount of each food group to ensure you get a good variety of essential nutrients.
Ensuring that the baseline staples of your diet are filled with whole, natural, and organic foods as tolerated will ensure that your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to properly manage physical and mental health challenges. When it comes to choosing the foods to eat, some have a range of excellent properties that help 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
Avocado: Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit that can be eaten in various ways, whether you enjoy it raw, made into sauces, dressings, dips, or smoothies. These nutrient-dense fruits have the properties to stress-proof your body, thanks to their high glutathione contently, which blocks direct intestinal absorption of certain fats that cause oxidative damage. Avocados also contain higher vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene levels than any other fruit, boosting their stress-busting properties. However, be careful with portion control when eating avocado, as it is high in fat.
Blueberries: If you’re feeling stressed out and reaching for snacks, swapping chocolate 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 antioxidants, especially anthocyanin, which means that this berry has been linked to a wide range of health benefits, including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind which can help you to better deal with stress.
Chamomile Tea: 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 your anxiety. Drinking liquids 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. It has also been used in clinical trials, which determined that chamomile tea effectively reduces the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Chocolate: 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 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 is best for you as it contains more flavanols and polyphenols, two hugely essential antioxidants which can help combat stress, more than many fruit juices.
Beef: Grass-fed beef is not only kinder to the planet and animals, but it’s also suitable for people too. Grass-fed beef has a massive range of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and Vitamins C and E, which can help your body 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 while being higher in omega-3.
Oatmeal: It is excellent because it can be filling comfort food, but it also has many health beneficial properties to 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.
Walnuts: If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option to help you stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. There is no denying the sweet, pleasant flavor of walnut, and they can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as part of a desert. Walnuts are excellent for salads or great to add to a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake.
Pistachios: Another food that is excellent for snacking on and can also help to combat stress and anxiety, in the long run, is pistachios. Studies have found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when stressed, 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, green vegetables should be a pivotal part of anyone’s diet. Along with helping combat stress, leafy greens are full of nutrients and antioxidants that help fight off disease and leave your body feeling healthier and more energized. Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, are perfect for you since they are rich in folate, which helps your body produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, a ‘feel-good’ chemical. Making leafy greens a part of your diet will help you feel happier and less stressed out overall.
Fermented foods: Finally, eating fermented foods such as yogurt can help keep your gut healthy, which helps improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt directly affect your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behavior regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.
Putting Together Your Diet Plan
Planning your meals wisely is key to staying physically fit and healthy, staying mentally strong, and best managing 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 is essential to helping you get control over your emotions and fears.
When you’re feeling stressed, you may be tempted to reach for classic ‘comfort foods’ – usually foods laden with sugar, starchy, or greasy. However, although these foods can make you feel momentarily better, they will worsen 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 can help you feel better short and long-term when it comes to stress. When it comes to combating and dealing with stress in the long run, it’s essential to make sure that, for the most part, you are eating a diet that is healthy and balanced. The 80/20 plan is a great way to balance out your efforts, aiming for 80% on point and 20% relaxed flexibility.
To stay on track, it’s a good idea to make a meal plan for your week and 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 most of your meals include foods such as lean proteins and leafy green vegetables will make you feel healthier overall and improve your mental health and stress levels.
An 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 Greek yogurt with fruit or a handful of pistachio nuts
Lunch: A whole-grain or gluten-free legume/bean-based pasta salad filled with plenty of leafy greens and colorful veggies
Afternoon snack: Dark chocolate
Dinner: Grass-fed beef with veggies
Before bed: Chamomile tea
You don’t need to stick to this menu strictly, but instead, use it as a tool to add to your box when the stress of life gets packed on. As a friendly reminder, remember to portion your servings when eating nuts, chocolate, yogurt, or avocado! As the saying goes, you are what you eat—so make sure that first and foremost, you are filling yourself up with foods that are good for your body and your mind. Listen to your body; it will tell you what it needs!