Do you feel more stressed than normal? Your eating habits might be the issue.
Leading a fast-paced life filled with obligations and tasks can often result in chronic stress. Stress can cause significant mental and physical harm, leading many to find comfort in chocolate, ice cream, or junk food to feel better.
Contrary to expectations, 33% of adults turn to unhealthy foods when stressed, and 49% feel guilty afterward. Fortunately, some foods can genuinely improve your mood, increase happiness, and reduce stress. Whether enjoyed as snacks or incorporated into meals, these foods offer a better alternative to junk food.
To diminish stress through eating habits, distinguishing between emotional eating and mindful eating. Mindful eating is a technique that cultivates self-awareness regarding our eating patterns.”
Let us explore the connection between our diet and emotional well-being and the steps we can take to improve it:
Six tips to ease stress with food
Dietician suggests 6 methods to soothe your body using smart food choices, which can also help calm your mind.
- Pick whole fruits and veggies: Processed foods might be handy for busy families but may lack the helpful nutrients in fresh fruits and vegetables. These nutrients help control stress in ways we may not even realize.
- Choose foods with Vitamins B, C, and D: Stress can make you bound to become ill. These vitamins help your immune system and prevent illness. Good sources include citrus fruits, berries, dark chocolate, and herbal teas like lavender or chamomile (avoid caffeinated teas). For B vitamins, go for whole grains and nuts.
- Consume Calcium-rich foods: Calcium and vitamin D helps combat the stress hormone cortisol. It is suggested to consume low-fat milk or yogurt. For non-dairy options, dark leafy greens offer calcium and vitamin D.
- Eat more omega-3 fatty acids: Stress is often linked to depression, and omega-3s can help reduce it. These nutrients can be found in fish like tuna, salmon, and halibut, as well as in avocados and flaxseed.
- Pick complex carbs over simple sugars: Carbs increase serotonin, which lowers stress. Complex carbs give lasting energy, while simple sugars can cause mood swings. Opt for whole-grain pasta and bread, and brown or wild rice.
- Avoid low-nutrient foods like simple sugars candy, cookies, and caffeine. Stress drains energy, so we often reach for quick energy boosters. However, sugar and caffeine give a short-lived boost, leaving you more tired later. Instead, choose foods that nourish both your mind and body.
The following food items are supported by science and may reduce anxiety:
Here’s some great news for dessert lovers: Dark chocolate can effectively combat stress when consumed in moderation. Many individuals crave sweets during stressful times, but popular desserts like milk chocolate and ice cream are packed with refined sugar, providing only short-lived mood improvements.
Dark chocolate contains a mood-enhancing compound called anandamide, which helps your body manage stress more effectively. While dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate, sugar-free options are also available in the market.
Dark chocolate is also rich in flavanols like epicatechin and catechin, which are plant compounds with antioxidant properties.
Research indicates that dark chocolate flavanols could benefit brain function and provide neuroprotective effects. Specifically, flavanols may boost blood flow to the brain and improve cell signaling pathways.
These effects could help you better cope with stressful situations that can contribute to anxiety and other mood disorders.
Beginning your day with oatmeal provides essential nutrients and healthy carbohydrates. Its unique benefits include reducing stress and anxiety due to its classification as a complex carb that doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes. As a result, your brain releases serotonin, the hormone responsible for promoting a positive mood.
Probiotics or beneficial bacteria, present in some yogurts may enhance various aspects of well-being, including mental health.
Though still a developing area of study, probiotics may support the gut-brain axis – a complex connection between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. Specifically, research indicates that healthy gut bacteria could be associated with improved mental health.
Moreover, probiotic foods like yogurt may foster mental health and brain function by reducing inflammation and promoting the production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like serotonin.
One study found that consuming probiotic yogurt daily for six weeks improved anxiety, stress, and quality of life in postmenopausal women.
While this is an exciting area of research, more human trials are needed to examine the direct link between yogurt consumption and anxiety.
It’s also worth noting that not all yogurt contains probiotics. To obtain probiotic benefits, select yogurt with live active cultures listed as an ingredient
Many people enjoy nuts in cakes and desserts, but eating a variety of nuts daily can also help reduce stress and anxiety. Pistachios, walnuts, cashews, and almonds are all rich in vitamin B, which supports the proper functioning of your nerve endings. Additionally, nuts contain healthy fats that keep you satisfied and prevent overeating.
Green tea is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid studied for its potential positive effects on brain health and anxiety.
In a double-blind, randomized study, participants who consumed a beverage containing L-theanine reported significantly reduced subjective stress and decreased cortisol levels, a stress hormone associated with anxiety.
These effects may result from L-theanine’s ability to prevent overexcitement of nerves. L-theanine might also increase GABA, dopamine, and serotonin, neurotransmitters known to have anti-anxiety effects.
Green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant believed to promote brain health. It may help reduce certain symptoms by increasing GABA in the brain.
Interestingly, the combination of L-theanine, EGCG, and other compounds in green tea appears to work synergistically to promote calmness and alleviate anxiety, potentially being more effective together than as separate ingredients.
However, more research is needed.
In a nutshell
Along with medication and therapy, the foods you consume can contribute to your mental health, reduce anxiety symptoms, and foster improved brain health.
Specifically, whole, minimally-processed foods rich in antioxidants seem to be beneficial. Incorporating these foods into your diet is an excellent approach to promoting brain health and overall well-being.