Have you been feeling more stressed than usual lately due to the change in our working and home life circumstances? Don’t worry, because you are not alone. Our partners at Hapi Nutrition feel it is important for you to know which foods help fight stress. Believe it or not, these food choices can help you to deal negative feelings during this overwhelming period.
The Importance of a Healthy Diet for Stress
Filling up on foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables and lean proteins as the basics of your diet is the best way to ensure your body gets the optimum amount of nutrients, to fight both physical and mental health problems. When it comes to choosing what foods to eat, many have a range of great properties which help the body to combat stress. Choosing these stress-busting foods will help to heal and calm your mind, with longer lasting effects. This is instead of providing a temporary fix such as a sugar rush. This will have you crashing and burning when you really need the endurance to see the day through.
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 them raw, made into sauces, dressings, dips, or in a smoothie, they have many health benefits. These nutrient-dense fruits have the properties to help fight stress. This is 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.
If you are feeling stressed and find yourself reaching for the snacks, try this simple swap! By swapping chocolate or crisps for one of the best superfoods is a great way to help you deal with your stress levels. 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. These include sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind – all of which make this a great food to fight 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 fizzy drinks 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. These have determined that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder.
Although it is 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 does not mean that you can start munching on chocolate bars every time you are 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. This is because it contains more flavonoids and polyphenols, two hugely important antioxidants which can help combat stress, more than many fruit juices.
Porridge is great in that it can be a filling comfort food, but also has many healthy properties to make you feel better from the inside out. It is a complex carbohydrate. Therefore, eating porridge oats causes your brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin. This helps you to feel calmer and is one of the best food’s to help fight stress. Studies have shown that children who choose oats for breakfast tend to be much sharper throughout the morning in school, compared to children who had alternative morning meals.
If you are looking for a healthy snacking option which will help you to stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. They can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as part of a desert. As a versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads, or added to a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake. They are excellent brain food and support optimal digestion.
Another food which is great for snacking on and can also help to 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 have good helath benefits. They can help lower vascular constriction when you are stressed. Therefore, 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. Dark leafy greens, for example, spinach, kale and broccoli are especially good for you. 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 one of the good foods that fights stress.
Putting together your meal plan
Planning your meals wisely is not only key to staying physically fit and healthy, but also to staying mentally strong and being able to manage your stress levels. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best can really help with managing your levels of stress and anxiety.
Don’t reach for the comfort foods…
When you’re feeling stressed, you may be tempted to reach for the classic ‘comfort foods’. These are usually foods which are full of sugar, very atarchy, or greasy. Although these foods can make you feel momentarily better, they will not help you to fight stress in the long run. They do this by causing inflammation, depleting energy levels, and increasing digestive discomfort. Instead, having foods that fight stress, such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, yoghurt, raw nuts and seeds can help you feel better in both the short and long term when it comes to dealing with stress.
In order to stay on track, it is a good idea to make a meal plan for your week and plan ahead to make sure you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in the kitchen. Planning ahead will also help you to avoid the last minute panic of thinking ‘what is for dinner tonight?!’, which can cause you more stress throughout your working day. Making a few simple daily swaps can not only make you feel healthier, but can also improve your mental health and stress levels too.
Here is an example of a healthy, stress-busting menu for a day:
Breakfast: Porridge with raw nuts, seeds and fresh or frozen berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado, banana and berries.
Mid-morning snack: Natural yoghurt with fresh berries or a handful of raw unsalted pistachio nuts.
Lunch: Mini gem lettuce leaf ‘boats’ filled with mashed tinned salmon, avocado, or lentil and vegtable soup served with wholegrian oatcakes.
Afternoon snack: Green tea with vegtable stick and hummus.
Dinner: Organic chicken with gibger, garlic and rainbow stir-fry vegtables. Or a tray baked cod, roast tomatoes amd sweet potato chips served with broccoli.
Befoe bed: Chammomile tea.
Remember to exercise good portion control with all of your snacks and meals. The saying goes, you are what you eat! So make sure you’re filling yourself up with nutritious foods that are good for your mental health and will sustain your energy levels. This will help you to keep a calm and clear head.