Stress can lead to weight gain and make you more likely to overeat. We reveal how to eat to beat stress, including the best healthy & calming foods for effective stress relief…
We live in an increasingly hectic world, and stress is an unwelcome fixture in many lives. Emotional stressors are something we have to deal with on a daily (or in some cases, hourly) basis, and we are frequently exposed to physical stressors, too. Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, pollution, lack of exercise, over-exercising, poor sleep patterns and that inconvenient time of the month all add to the stress that is threatening to tip you over the edge and lead to low mood.
You might think stress is for the weak – that it’s just a buzz word, something that can simply be palmed off while you power through life. But high blood pressure, an aching back or neck, diarrhoea, dizzy spells, fatigue, weight loss/gain, insomnia, frequent colds and lack of concentration are all – among others – very real symptoms of a stressed body.
When the body is stressed, the small structures that control your hormones, known as the adrenal glands, go into overdrive, causing a rise in your metabolic rate along with a rampaging, hormone storm! For the body to try to counteract this, we ‘use up’ nutrients faster than we can replace them. Couple this with a typical ‘pick me up’ diet of sugary, carbohydrate-rich, grab-and-go foods, and stress quickly gives way to anxiety, depression and illness.
Next time you’re feeling the pressures of life, try ditching the wine and ice cream, and munch on the best calming foods for stress relief instead…
8 best calming foods for stress relief
Add this exotic fruit to your morning smoothie. Vitamin C is used in large quantities by the adrenal glands, therefore long-term stress can result in a depletion of this immune-boosting antioxidant – hello frequent sniffles! Guava, strawberries and kiwi fruit also warrant a thumbs up.
Fish is high in vitamin B12, which is essential for combating irritability, depression, anxiety and insomnia. B12 works in synergy with folic acid, so combine your fish with folate-rich spinach for a nutrient double whammy!
These nutty nibbles contain L-tryptophan. This is an essential amino acid that causes a boost in serotonin (the body’s natural anti-depressant) and melatonin (our natural sleeping aid). As it’s not produced within the body, we have to consume tryptophan-rich foods. Other sources are turkey and baked potatoes.
Magnesium deficiency, a common side effect of stress, can magnify symptoms. Due to modern farming and processing, much of the food we consume is lacking in this vital mineral. Therefore, we have to try harder to include foods that are naturally rich in this disease-combating marvel. Nuts, in particular almonds, are rich in magnesium and should be included in small amounts, daily.
During your period, sex hormones fluctuate somewhat and this can result in a magnesium deficiency – combat this by snacking on magnesium-rich foods before the symptoms kick in!
During periods of stress, we excrete more potassium than usual, which can lead to some pretty unpleasant side effects over time. Almost every organ, cell and tissue needs potassium in order to function optimally. It also aids smooth muscle contraction (including the muscles that control digestion, which is why stress and irritable bowels often go hand in hand). Dark leafy greens, such as swiss chard, can go some way in rectifying this.
Not only are eggs rich in a whole host of valuable nutrients, including zinc, which is an essential immune booster, but they are also one of the best sources of protein around. Our protein stores are used up quickly during periods of stress. Plus, considering protein is used in almost every function right down to cellular level, it’s essential that stores are replenished regularly.
Keep your emotional and physical wellbeing on the straight and narrow by including 20g protein (80g turkey or tuna) with each main meal and 10g protein (100g Greek yogurt or two small boiled eggs) as part of a healthy snack twice a day. Other sources of complete protein include meat, fish, dairy products and quinoa.
Related: Cooking with eggs – health benefits and easy recipes
Apparently there’s a reason us highly stressed Brits stick the kettle on when things get too much. According to a study conducted by University College London, four cups of black tea per day may promote a feeling of calm and aid in de-stressing.
If you find you’re caffeine sensitive, stick to herbal teas, such as chamomile. Or, try Pukka’s Night Time tea for a soothing alternative. Probably best to avoid the sugary biscuits, though!
Sleep-inducing and tranquilising, honey truly is one of nature’s best remedies. Try drizzling over your morning oats for breakfast or stirring into some warm milk for a blissful night’s rest.