If you clicked on a picture of a donut to read this story, be forewarned: A donut is NOT on the list. But it’s a poster-food we often choose in times of stress.
“We are a society that abuses food when stressed,” says Jessica Crandall, RDN, and spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To combat these habits she believes people should take an “eating pause.”
“Assess how our food fuels us throughout the day, “ Crandall says. “ Then, start thinking about planning and preparing for those meals or snacks. So that “even if you’re stressed, you can more easily execute those meal options.”
Before you get to that point where you’re feeling overburdened or anxious — and you will — go shopping for some of these stress-reducing vittles:
Studies show that complex carbs like oatmeal reduce stress by producing the stress-busting chemical serotonin. It also helps maintain mood balance. Decreased levels of serotonin have some links to depression. Grab a bowl in the morning to start your day off right.
Everyone’s talking about probiotics these days, and for good reason. Studies show that consuming probiotics aids in digestive health. But another benefit is that they may help reduce stress. UCLA researchers discovered that women who regularly consumed probiotics through yogurt showed altered function in the area of the brain that monitors your moods and sensitivity to stress.
Stop ignoring that can of tuna in the cupboard. It could help keep you emotionally balanced. Studies show that having an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids can decrease feelings of anxiety. “Fatty fish gives us those higher omega-3 properties, which reduces inflammation” to the body and the brain. Crandall says.
Bright fruits are crammed with antioxidants, making your favorite fruit salad an excellent choice for stress reduction. The brighter, the better. “Your fruits and vegetables are really high in antioxidants and help to decrease cellular stress. So the brighter and more brilliant fruits and vegetables are what we want to eat a variety of to decrease that stress,” Crandall says. Make sure that your fruit salad contains both blueberries and blackberries, so you can reach your zen quicker.
Similar to tuna, salmon is also an omega-3 packing winner for helping to alleviate anxiety and depression. It keeps the cortisol and adrenaline levels down when you’re in a tense mood — and it’s healthy for your heart! The Atlantic salmon variety is your best bet, with more than 1,500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per 3 ounce. Aim for 2 servings of fish each week.
A stressful day may have you reaching for a decadent, sugary candy. Here’s a better option. A study published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology found that eating dark chocolate reduced stress hormones. So go ahead and indulge that chocolate craving you’ve been having. But make sure it contains 70-85 percent cocoa to reap the full nutritional benefits.
This smart, portable vegetable is brimming with vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates that boost serotonin production. Pack baby carrots for lunch or prepare a batch of baked carrot fries for dinner.
If you’re a java junkie, it might be time to try tea for a relaxing change. Studies have proven that decaffeinated tea has the ability to both lower cortisol levels and produce higher levels of relaxation. Lavender, chamomile and black teas are excellent options to try.
It seems like a no-brainer, right? Still, adults on average, drink less than four cups of water a day, surveys show. “Make sure you maintain hydration throughout the day so that you are keeping those cells lubricated and not causing more oxidative stress,” Crandall says. How much? You probably hear 8 glasses a day often, but it depends on several factors. But here’s a good primer.
At the end of the day, these foods, balanced with sleep and exercise, are the ingredients to reducing stress.
Courtne Dixon is a Howard University graduate who recently started her mind, body, and wellness journey. She enjoys writing and loves to learn new health facts.