Fight Stress at the Dinner Table!
When stress piles up and you feel like it’s closing in on you, reaching for a snack seems like an easy distraction and quick energy source. After all, stress increases cortisol levels in our bodies, and cortisol causes food cravings. Many times those cravings are for quick carbs, especially sweet foods, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. But eating in response to stress can be a tricky solution. Cortisol also triggers an enzyme in our fat cells that creates more cortisol, which means we get caught up in a cycle that leads to excess calories and weight gain, which further increases our stress!
As an alternative, incorporating foods into your regular diet that make it easier to deal with stress can help. It turns out that there are also some foods that can actually help relieve stress. (No, it’s not from eating them and feeling soothed by what we call comfort foods.) These foods have nutrients that help us stay calm, be mentally alert, and reduce our blood pressure. Stock up on some of these stress-busting powerhouses the next time you’re at the grocery store.
Stress depletes our B vitamin stores and nuts can help replace them and reduce blood pressure, thanks to a hearty dose of potassium. Just watch the calories; a handful of nuts adds up fast!
Technically a fruit and also a plant-based fat, avocados can help you build a stress barrier with the help of glutathione, a substance that specifically blocks intestinal absorption of certain fats that cause oxidative damage. Avocados also contain lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and folate. Half an avocado diced on a salad or sliced on a sandwich can elevate your lunch.
There’s a reason that packages of tea bags feature relaxing pictures of flowers, meadows, and calm people. A study from the University of Pennsylvania showed a direct link between chamomile tea and a significant drop in anxiety symptoms.
Slice up a red pepper and dip it into hummus for an afternoon snack at work, and those budget worksheets may be easier to tackle. The high doses of vitamin C in red peppers reduces blood pressure and helps us deal with stressful situations, according to Elizabeth Somer, R.D.
Have you heard the advice to eat fish twice a week? A study in Brain, Behavior and Immunity, showed that a daily omega-3 supplement reduces anxiety. Wild salmon and other oily fish are a natural source of omega-3, so aim for 2 servings a week, or if you are following a plant-based diet, talk to your doctor about DHA supplements.
Have you ever checked your magnesium levels? Low amounts of magnesium can be the reason for stress and depression, and the dark green leaves of spinach can be the perfect antidote. Magnesium helps regulate cortisol and blood pressure, but is flushed out of the body when you’re stressed. Including spinach, brown rice, beans, and other sources of magnesium into your meals can make it easier to deal with the stresses that come your way.
Eating can be a soothing distraction, but it matters what you choose in times of anxiety and stress. Practice deep breathing and yoga, foster positive relationships, and get plenty of exercise for quick stress relief during the day. And, incorporate these healthy foods into your diet to create a force field around you all day long!
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– HEATHER FUSELIER, CHWC, CFP, TTS
Health Advisor | Email Heather