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  • Writer's pictureIrene

Eat your way out of Stress

Eat your Way through Stressful Times

It is a weird start to 2022 for many people, with seemingly more trepidation than anticipation for the year ahead. If you’ve been feeling more stressed out than usual lately, don’t add more pressure with pledges of a “New Year, New You” just take care of the old you and your response to stress, and the rest will happen in its own time.

It’s important to know which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when it comes to dealing with feelings of stress and anxiety, and to strike a healthy balance of nutrients derived from all the major food groups paying a little more attention to the stress-busting foods mentioned below.

Filling up on foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, fermented foods and lean proteins as the basic staples of the diet is the best way to ensure that your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to combat both physical and mental stress.

Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:

10 Top Stress-busting Foods:

  • Avocado – Avocados are 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 has the properties to stress-proof your body, thanks to their high glutathione content which specifically blocks the intestinal absorption of certain inflammatory 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 calories.

  • Blueberries – Achieve a greater level of calm by swapping chocolate bars or crisps for one of the best superfoods around. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants, especially anthocyanin and linked to a wide range of mental health benefits including sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind – all of which can help you to better deal with stress.

  • Chamomile Tea – Of course, it’s not all about what you’re eating when it comes to managing stress; what you are 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 increase your stress levels if consumed regularly. Chamomile tea has long been used as a natural bedtime soother, and in clinical trials, is shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

  • Chocolate – 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 start munching on chocolate bars 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, two hugely important antioxidants which can help combat stress.

  • Beef – Might seem controversial to include meat in this list yet grass-fed beef has a huge range of antioxidants, including beta-carotene, zinc and vitamins C and E, which can help your body to fight stress and anxiety. Seek out organic, grass-fed beef, it’s also lower in fat than grain-fed beef whilst being higher in omega-3, another stress-busting nutrient.

  • Oatmeal – (or porridge) is a filling comfort food, but also packed with healthy properties to make you feel better from the inside out. Eating oatmeal triggers your brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, helping you to feel calmer and less stressed. Studies have shown that children who eat porridge for breakfast tend to be much sharper throughout the morning in school compared to kids who had ultra-processed cereals.

  • Walnuts – If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option which will help you to stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. A versatile nut, walnuts are great raw, or in salads, or add them to your homemade bread mix, delicious!

  • Pistachios – another food which is great for snacking on and can also help to combat stress and anxiety. Studies have found that simply eating two small handfuls of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when you are stressed, putting less pressure on your heart by further dilating your arteries. Along with this, the rhythmic, repetitive act of shelling pistachios can be quite therapeutic!

  • Green Leafy Vegetables – 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 are rich in folate, which helps your body to produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, the ‘feel-good’ chemical. Adding leafy greens to your diet will help you to feel happier and less stressed out.

  • Fermented foods – last but not least, eating fermented foods such as natural yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut 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 have a direct effect on your brain chemistry and transmit positive mood and behaviour regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.

Planning your meals is key to not only staying physically fit and healthy, but also to staying mentally strong and resilient. Knowing which foods to reach for when you’re feeling worried and anxious is important to helping you get control over your emotions and fears.

In tense times, you may be tempted to reach for classic ‘comfort foods’ – usually foods which are laden with sugar, very starchy, or greasy. However, although these foods can make you feel momentarily better, you are more likely to feel worse in the long run.

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.

A good example of a healthy, stress-busting menu would 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 & walnut pesto salad with plenty of leafy greens

Afternoon snack: Dark chocolate

Dinner: Grass-fed beef with vegetables

Before bed: Chamomile tea

Allow yourself to rest and recover in these last few weeks of Winter and you will be bursting with energy and raring to go when Spring comes around.

If you are looking for a 7-Day Stress- Busting Meal Plan customized to your taste, diet preference and cooking times get in touch and let me know. Check out my Meal Planning service for details

Happy New Year,

Irene :)

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