Stress. We all have it. It’s your body’s natural physical, mental and emotional response to changes in our environment. But while stress is a normal and unavoidable part of life, too much of it can really take a toll on your health. It can trigger everything from an upset stomach and a headache, to anger and depression, to serious cardiovascular and respiratory problems.
Many people turn to food when they are stressed. They overeat the wrong things – like a pint of ice cream or junk food from a vending machine. Overindulging in foods high in simple carbs, salt, fats, sugar, and artificial flavors and colors will only make you feel worse, physically and mentally. A better way to calm anxiety is to choose foods that have been shown to actually help the body manage stress.
There are an abundance of foods that are packed with vitamins and nutrients that can positively impact your body, mind and spirit during those challenging times. So before you get up in the middle of the night to reach for that slice of cold pizza in the fridge, consider these five more nutritious alternatives:
Popeye was on to something. Spinach has plenty of health benefits and is a tasty and nutritious vegetable that can be incorporated into a variety of meals and side dishes. In addition to being rich in vitamins A, E, K, and B6, iron, and calcium, it is also an excellent source of magnesium.
Magnesium is a mineral that helps the body regulate certain biochemical reactions, including the secretion of adrenaline and adrenal cortisone, two hormones that help the body manage stress. Magnesium is so well known for its role in helping people manage stress it is sometimes called “nature’s Valium” and “the original chill pill.” A magnesium deficiency can put you at risk for depression, emotional disorders, fatigue and many other ailments, especially during times of stress. Stress can also cause or worsen a magnesium deficiency. Increasing your magnesium intake can help provide your body with stress-fighting support.
Other foods that are high in magnesium:
Berries are “berry” good for providing you with vitamin C which has been shown to help the body manage stress. Berries are also rich in antioxidants which support cell repair and the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which is critical to mood.
Other foods high in vitamin c:
Chocoholics rejoice! Dark chocolate not only tastes delicious, but it is also has stress-fighting properties. Cocoa has antioxidants that can help the body regulate hormonal balance. Researchers found that consuming dark chocolate reduces the release of stress hormones and increases the “feel-good” hormones, serotonin and dopamine. While chocolate shouldn’t replace fruits and veggies, you can enjoy that afternoon candy bar guilt-free!
Other foods high in antioxidants:
Soothe anxiety and calm nerves with a warm cup of tea. Black tea and green tea contain L-Theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to lower the levels of cortisol which can help you relax. In fact, researchers in Australia compared the effects of L-Theanine on anxiety to that of the popular anti-anxiety medication alprazolam (Xanax). They found that L-Theanine actually worked better to reduce anxiety during part of the research test.
Other sources of L-Theanine:
Tea is the only naturally occurring source of L-Theanine but it is available as a supplement.
A bowl of warm oatmeal is filled with comfort and whole a lot more. It has B vitamins, magnesium, and fiber, as well as complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates give you energy, but also increase your body’s serotonin levels which can keep you calmer and more relaxed. Eating oatmeal is a delicious way to help keep your body at a healthy balance.
Other foods high in complex carbohydrates:
Everyone experiences stress but poor eating habits can exacerbate those feelings of tension and anxiety. Try incorporating the above foods into your diet and get some relief from your stress the natural and nutritious way.