Many times when we get stressed we turn to food to comfort us, snacking or eating as a way to take our mind off of our anxiousness or discomfort. Later we feel guilty or regret our choice of choosing bingeing rather than doing something we “think” we should do like meditation, sleep or exercise to work through high-adrenaline stress-filled situations. All of those are great choices, but don’t rule out stress-eating as a healthy option to work through anxious moments. There are healthy ways to rely on food for comfort but it may mean making some conscious choices before the stress hits so you can be prepared when the munching moments arise. In fact, making some healthy eating choices right now may ward off stress in the first place since your body will be filled with nutrient-rich, stress-fighting foods.
Have foods available, prepared and easy to grab when the stress hits but better yet, eat these stress-fighting foods every day to build up a strong immune system to keep your body healthy and beat the stress before it even happens to you in the first place. Be aware that eating one or two foods only or in excess may throw your body system off-balance, so try to eat a wide variety of foods to give your body and mind all the nutrients it needs to function proficiently.
Dark chocolate, coconut water, kelp, buckwheat, Brazil nuts, tahini, and pumpkin seeds are high in Magnesium. Magnesium is a natural stress reliever that calms the mind and relaxes the muscles. Magnesium-deficient diets can actually worsen symptoms of anxiety causing tense muscles and a taxed nervous system.
Sunflower seeds, eggs, lentils, sea vegetables, organ meats, and broccoli in slightly lesser amounts contain Pantothenic Acid. Pantothenic acid, Vitamin B5, is also known as the “anti-stress vitamin.” It helps regulate the nervous system and manufacture stress hormones in the adrenal glands.
Spinach, broccoli, oranges, strawberries, and dried beans contain large amounts of Folic Acid. Folic acid helps with the growth of new cells and keeps neural activity sharp to promote mental clarity and work as an effective anti-depressant. When brain cells don’t fire effectively, it can cause mental fog, listlessness, and fatigue.
Bananas, oranges, sardines, salmon, and cabbage are high in Potassium. Potassium relies on other critical minerals like magnesium, calcium, and sodium. Together they regulate blood pressure and heartbeat and maintain a balanced nervous system to lower stress levels and reduce anxiety.
Chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, grass-fed beef, salmon, sardines and tofu are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Our brain is comprised of two key Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function. Low levels of Omega-3s in the blood mean low levels in the brain which causes a slow-down of signaling between the brain cells, a common cause of anxiety. Clinical studies show that adequate levels of Omega-3s can help reduce anxiety and promote clear and focused thinking.
I realize potato chips or cookie-dough ice cream may be the first choice for comfort food when stress creeps in, but even if you choose a junk food, try to also add a few super-foods to give your body the nutrients it needs to build-you-up when stress tries to wear you down. Before you know it, you will actually start to crave the healthier choices the more you reach for them on a regular basis. And your very wise body will know how good they make you feel and begin changing your taste buds to adjust to your new healthier lifestyle.