Feeling weighed down by stress can be tough on the psyche, as built up, chronic stress can make us feel more tired, irritated, and depressed than usual due to such strains and overwhelm, as explained by Keri Gans, MS, RD, CDN, in an interview with Prevention. Thus, knowing which foods combat stress can help us feel happier and healthier and have less stress during the day, according to Gans. With less stress, it's easier to be productive and focused at work, as well.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on managing their stress and emotions, as chronic stress can be damaging to short-term and long-term quality of life and health. When there's too much cortisol, which results in stress all over the body, it can make us feel out of control and unlike ourselves, as I have seen through my own personal experiences and in those of my clients. When they have upcoming work or social commitments that take up too much of their time and energy, and they're unable to find a healthy outlet (such as exercise or dinner with friends) to balance out the "work" versus "play" ratio, the mind and body can become out of whack. Yet, eating certain foods can help manage stress. Here are 11 foods to eat to beat stress now.
Over email with Bustle, Dr. Lisa Ashe, Medical Director of the Be Well Medical Group, explains that "foods that are high in DHA (a type of omega 3 fatty acid), including salmon and other types of fish such as tuna, sardines, caviar, anchovies, bluefish, mackerel, swordfish, and herring," can help alleviate stress and boost happiness. Eat out of the can, add to salads, or eat atop toast for a hearty breakfast.
Ashe explains that legumes, such as beans and lentils, are "high in folate," which has been shown to help reduce stress. Additionally, these foods are loaded with protein, which can also regulate mood swings and balance emotions, expresses Ashe. Eat as a lunch, or add to meals as a side dish, perhaps with some fresh herbs or shaved cheese.
High in vitamin B12, eggs are a great food to have to combat stress, advises Ashe, as they can support a healthy, functioning brain and help regulate mood. Other foods high in this powerful vitamin are "shellfish, crab, mackerel and salmon, liver, eggs, and dairy products, such low fat milk and cheese." Have these for breakfast or eat hard-boiled for a snack mid-day.
Having something warm, such as tea, can help get rid of cravings, fill you up, and lower stress levels due to the relaxing, tranquilizing effect found in most brews (especially chamomile or some herbal variety due to lack of caffeine), advises running coach and personal trainer Susie Lemmer, over email with Bustle. Have a cup whenever you're freaking out, and let your body rest.
5. Whole Grains
"Sometimes we get in a bad mood simply because we need food. The term 'hangry' becoming angry, grumpy or frustrated because you are hungry - describes it well," says Gans over email with Bustle. "Whether it be a snack or a meal make sure what you eat is balanced. For example, a sandwich with protein could be the perfect remedy," she says, and explains how whole grains can "boost the amount of tryptophan in your brain. Tryptophan is then converted into serotonin, also known as the “feel-good” hormone."
6. Leafy Greens
According to Heather Mangieri, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in interview with Health, consuming leafy greens, which are bursting with rich sources of iron, protein, and folate, can lead to greater production of dopamine, which can boost mood and eliminate stress. Add to protein dishes, enjoy raw as a salad, or cook with some garlic and ginger.
Eating walnuts can boost mood, as they are high in omega 3's which can increase serotonin production and make us feel happier, explains Connie Diekman, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, former president of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, over email with Bustle. "One of the pluses of choosing healthy fats as a part of a snack is the satiety fats can bring to that snack. A snack of walnuts and fresh or dried fruit meets energy needs but provides enjoyment, a snack of a smoothie with low-fat yogurt, flax, and crushed walnuts provides that same good nutrient package," Diekman says. Pistachios and almonds are also great choices due to healthy fats!
8. Turkey Breast
On his blog, Dr. Mercola said that foods high in tryptophan can help banish stress and relax the mind and body. Mercola recommended eating turkey breast (perhaps in a sandwich, as the complex carbs can double the benefits!), or snacking on pumpkin seeds, nuts, or eggs, as those are also rich in the powerful nutrient.
9. Greek Yogurt
Probiotics, found in Greek yogurt, kimchi, and miso, among others, can boost mood and reduce inflammation and stress, as explained by John Cryan, author of a University College Cork study demonstrating that probiotics can alter the way we think and influence our brain patterns. Such manipulation can help override stress and make us feel happier.
10. Sweet Potatoes
Over interview with Women's Health, Drew Ramsey, M.D., author of The Happiness Diet and Fifty Shades of Kale said that sweet potatoes can help alleviate stress, as they are high in carotenoids and fiber and do not cause a sugar spike, as a result of their low GI score. When mood and sugar levels are balanced, it's easier to combat stressful situations.
11. Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds
Ramsey also recommended eating chocolate covered almonds, as the nuts supply nutrients, protein, and healthy fats to combat stress, and the dark chocolate contains antioxidants that have been found to lower cortisol and anxiety. However, be wary of serving size, and consume in moderation for the optimal benefits and to avoid excess sugar and fat.
When you're feeling stressed out, taking a moment to eat a snack that is high in these powerful nutrients can help mellow you out and boost mood to get back to a positive and more excited state. Feeling weighed down is never fun, and so if food can help fix that and provide delicious flavors and satiety, there's no point in not taking a bite!
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