THE GOOD LIFE BLOG
THE GOOD LIFE BLOG
When you’re stressed out, the foods that you’re turning to are most likely going to be traditional ‘comfort’ foods like big meals, take-away, fatty foods, sweet foods, and alcohol. I'm sure we’ve all found some comfort in a tasty meal and a bottle of beer or glass of wine when we’ve been stressed out or upset. This isn’t a good permanent solution, though.
If you’ve been feeling more stressed out than usual lately, it’s important to know which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when it comes to combating stress and helping you to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet which includes a moderate amount of each of the different food groups.
To ensure that your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to fight both physical and mental health problems, filling up on foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, and lean proteins as the basic staples of the diet is the best way. When it comes to choosing the foods to eat, some 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 permanently, rather than providing a temporary fix.
Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:
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Avocado is a creamy and versatile fruit which can be eaten in a range of different ways whether you enjoy it raw, made into sauces, dressings and dips, or in a smoothie. This nutrient-dense fruit have the properties to stress-proof your body, thanks to its 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. However, be careful with portion control when eating avocado, as it is high in fat.
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Swapping chocolate or chips for one of the best superfoods is a great way to help you deal with your stress levels and achieve a higher level of calm. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants, especially antho-cyanin, which means that this berry has been linked to a wide range of health benefits including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind – all of which can help you to better deal with stress.
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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 soda, can actually increase your stress levels if consumed regularly. Chamomile tea has long been used as a natural bedtime soother, and it has also been used in clinical trials, which determined that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
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Although it’s usually seen as an unhealthy treat, there is an undeniable link between chocolate and our mood. Studies have shown that eating chocolate can actually make you happier. However, that doesn’t mean that you can have a chocolate bar every time you're stressed out. Chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Dark chocolate in particular is best for you, as it contains more flavonols and polyphenols, which are two hugely important antioxidants that can help combat stress more than many fruit juices.
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Grass-fed beef is not only kinder to the planet and to animals, it’s also good for people, too. Grass-fed beef has a huge range of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and Vitamins C and E, which can help your body fight stress and anxiety. If you’re looking for more reasons to spend a little more money on organic, grass-fed beef, it’s also lower in fat than grain-fed beef whilst being higher in omega-3.
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Oatmeal is great in that it can be a filling comfort food, but it also has a large number of healthy properties to actually make you feel better from the inside out. As it is a complex carbohydrate, eating oatmeal causes your brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, helping you to feel calmer and less stressed.
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If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option thatwill help you to stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. They have a sweet, pleasant flavor, and they can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as part of a desert. Walnuts are also great for salads, or you can include them in a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake.
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Pistachios is another food which is great for snacking on and can also help to combat stress and anxiety in the long term. Studies have found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when you are stressed, putting less pressure on your heart by further dilating your arteries. The rhythmic, repetitive act of shelling pistachios can actually also be quite therapeutic. :)
Leafy green vegetables
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Leafy, green vegetables should be an important part of any 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 and more energized.
Dark leafy greens, for example spinach, are especially good for you since 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 a part of your diet will help you to feel happier and less stressed out overall.
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Last but not least, eating fermented foods such as yogurt can help to keep your gut healthy, which actually in turn will help to improve your mental health and reduce stress levels. The beneficial bacteria which are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, actually have a direct effect on your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behavior regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.
Putting together your meal plan
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Planning your meals wisely is key to not only staying physically fit and healthy, but also to staying mentally strong and being able to best manage your levels of stress. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best to reach for to snack on when you’re feeling worried and anxious is important to helping you get control over your emotions and fears.
Having stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, yogurt, walnuts or pistachios, or even a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens in it, can help you to feel better in both the short and long term when it comes to stress. The most important thing is to make sure that for the most part, you're eating a diet that is healthy and balanced.
To stay on track, it’s a good idea to make a meal plan for your week. Plan ahead to make sure that you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in your kitchen, so you can make meals and snacks from them when you’re feeling like stress-eating. Making sure that the majority of your meals include foods such as lean proteins and leafy green vegetables will not only make you feel healthier overall, but can improve your mental health and stress levels, too.
A good example of a healthy, stress-busting menu could be:
Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and berries.
Mid-morning snack: Natural yogurt with fruit or a handful of pistachio nuts.
Lunch: A whole-grain pasta salad filled with plenty of leafy greens.
Afternoon snack: Dark chocolate.
Dinner: Grass-fed beef with vegetables.
Before bed: Chamomile tea.
This was just an exampel of a menu, to give you a good idea.
Remember to exercise good portion control when eating foods such as nuts, chocolate, yogurt or avocado! As the saying goes, you are what you eat – so make sure that first and foremost, you’re filling yourself up with foods which are good for your mental health.
I hope this article was of value to you. I'll be writing more about health and nutrion on a regular basis, so if this is something you're interested in, I hope you'll like and follow my blog. Feel free to share it with someone else who might like it, too.