Eat Your Stress Goodbye: 9 Stress-Reducing Foods
If you stressed out and constantly worried, you are more susceptible to coming down with an infection because stress weakens the immune system. Stress also tends to lead to impaired sleep, which also negatively impacts immunity.
Researchers who studied medical students found that the students' immunity decreased every year with their exam period stress. Test takers had fewer natural killer cells (NK cells), which fight tumours and viral infections.
When you're under stress and tension, the foods you're turning to are most likely going to be traditional "comfort" foods – convenience processed meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods and alcohol. Many of us can relate – we've found some comfort in a tasty meal and a bottle of beer or glass of wine when we've been under pressure or upset about something. Unfortunately, this isn't a good permanent solution.
When you're turning to unhealthy foods, you can feel better temporarily, but in the long run, you will feel worse. When your body isn't getting the proper 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.
Foods that Fight Stress
If you've been feeling more stressed out than usual lately, it's important to know which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when combating tension and anxiety. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet that includes a moderate amount of different food groups.
Filling up on 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 excellent properties that help the body combat stress. Choosing these 9 stress-busting foods will help calm your mind more permanently rather than provide a temporary fix.
1. Blueberries – If you're feeling stressed out and reaching for the 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 levels of 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 – all of which can help you to better deal with stress. (Santivia Immune contains blueberries!)
2. Avocado – Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit that 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 vitamin E levels, folate, and beta-carotene than any other fruit, which boosts their stress-busting properties. However, be careful with portion control when eating avocado, as it is high in fat.
3. Chamomile Tea – It's not all about what you're eating when managing stress; what you're drinking can also alleviate or worsen the stress you're feeling. Drinking liquids that are 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. It has also been used in clinical trials, which determined that chamomile tea effectively reduces symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder.
4. Dark 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 dark chocolate can make you happier. However, that doesn't mean that you can start munching on entire chocolate bars every time you're stressed out – dark chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. It contains more flavonols and polyphenols, two hugely essential antioxidants which can help combat stress, more than many fruit juices.
5. Oatmeal – Oatmeal is great because it can be filling comfort food and has a large number of 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 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 than kids who had alternative morning meals.
6. Walnuts – If you're looking for a healthy snacking option that will help you stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. There is no denying the sweet, pleasant flavour of walnuts, and they can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as a salad topping.
7. Pistachios – Another food that is great for snacking on and can help combat stress and anxiety in the long term is pistachios. 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 be quite therapeutic!
8. 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 energised. Dark leafy greens, for example, spinach, are perfect 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 feel happier and less stressed out.
9. Fermented Foods – Last but not least, eating fermented foods such as yoghurt can help keep your gut healthy, which in turn helps improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods such as yoghurt have a direct effect on your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behaviour regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.
It's a good idea to make a meal plan for your week and plan ahead to ensure that you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in your kitchen. Use them as snacks or as meal ingredients, especially when you feel 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.
Remember to exercise reasonable portion control when eating foods such as nuts, chocolate, yoghurt or avocado! As the saying goes, you are what you eat – so make sure that first and foremost, you're filling yourself up with foods that are beneficial for your mental health.
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