Eat more when you’re stressed? You’re not alone. In fact, all that stress eating can pack on an additional 11 pounds each year! Most of us are quick to turn to sugar and refined carbs the second tension gets high. When we feel overwhelmed, we seek out comforting food, giving it the power to make us feel better…and then worse.
A national survey conducted by NPR, Harvard School of Public Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that most changes to diet occurs during stressful times. And these changes aren’t always for the best.
The foods we choose under stress, like chocolate or simple carbohydrates such as bagels or white pasta, often take you on a hormonal roller coaster: surging and crashing hormone and blood sugar levels which leaves you more susceptible to new stresses than when you started. It’s a vicious cycle that must be stopped!
Given what we know about how foods affect the risk for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, why should it be so surprising that the foods we eat also affect our emotional and mental well-being?
There certain foods we can choose to make us more resilient when times get tough.
Here are the BEST foods to help keep you stress free and happy!
Joe Hibbeln of the National Institute of Health says omega-3s help make your “stress system” more flexible by protecting neurons against damage from chronic stress. Good sources of omega-3s include fish– especially wild-caught salmon– walnuts, flax seeds or flax oil, avocados, and chia seeds.
Stress Beating Recipe: Smoked Salmon with Fresh Garden Relish including avocados.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
Rich in magnesium — which fends off anxiety — and zinc — which boosts the immune system — consider adding pumpkin seeds on top of your oatmeal, salads, and smoothies for an ultimate stress buster.
Stress Beating Recipe: Add pumpkin seeds to this Fig & Honey Breakfast Quinoa
To stabilize blood sugar, be sure to include healthy proteins like eggs to start your day and avoid a mental and physical crash later on. Eggs are a good source of B vitamins, which will keep you more satisfied than a carb-based breakfast.
Stress Beating Recipe: Cumin Scrambled Egg Breakfast Tacos
When in doubt, assume dark, leafy greens will help with almost any ailment. Greens — which can include chard, kale, collards, spinach — are incredibly nutrient dense and will arm your body with all the tools it needs to kick your stress to the curb.
Stress Beating Recipe: Healthy Spinach and Artichoke Dip
5. Dark Chocolate
All hail! Your impulses don’t have to be completely suppressed under stress. There are many health benefits of dark chocolate, and now Drew Ramsey, a psychiatrist at Columbia University and author of The Happiness Diet, says your favorite source of antioxidants can have “an acute affect on mood.” Cocoa flavanols help boost mood and sustain clear thinking among adults under intense mental pressure. Control yourself, though! A little bit goes a long way, so a small square will do.
Stress Beating Recipe: Dark Chocolate Quinoa Candy Bars
Bottom line? There are no silver bullet foods to melt away stress. But take the time to get to know your body and your emotions to help you realize that there is a very, very strong connection between your food and your mood.