When we talk about stress and food in the same sentence, it usually refers to how many of us eat all the wrong things when we are feeling stressed out. That assumption makes sense because stress eating is a big problem for so many people. Unfortunately, for those of us who turn to food to manage stress, research conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that the food we choose when we stress-eat is high in calories, fat, and sugar. This is bad news if you are already overweight or working hard to maintain a healthy weight. In order to put a more positive spin on the relationship between stress and food as we move through Stress Awareness Month, we thought it would be helpful to talk about what foods we should eat when we are stressed. These foods may not be the first thing we crave as our stress level rises, but if we can choose these foods instead of foods that are full of calories, fat, and sugar, we can decrease our stress without increasing our waistline.
Here are 10 of the best stress busting foods you can use to stress eat your way to better health.
Asparagus is a great stress food because it provides the same kind of crunch as chips without all the calories and fat. It is also full of folic acid which can act as a mood stabilizer by promoting the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin.
You may not think of beef as a “healthier option” but when it comes to stress eating, it can hit the spot. Because beef has high levels of B vitamins and zinc it also helps to keep you off the stress-induced mood rollercoaster. Choosing lean beef can provides a punch of protein which gives you a sustained source of energy rather than a sugar induced spike.
Avocados are also high in stress-relieving, mood stabilizing folate as well as several anti-oxidants and B vitamins, including B6. This is an important B vitamin that can rapidly be depleted when you are under stress.
4. Milk (Skim or 1%)
Dairy products that are low in fat, like milk, are natural stress busters. Filled with B vitamins, calcium, and protein, milk can help keep stress-related cravings at bay by making you feel satiated for longer. The B vitamins also help create calming neurotransmitters.
Nuts can be a great stress-eating snack because many varieties offer the salty taste and crunchy texture we are craving when we reach for chips. But unlike chips, nuts also provide vitamins and healthy fats. You still need to watch your serving size because too much of a good thing can still be bad for you.
Berries, especially blueberries, are filled with antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber. Vitamin C is a powerful stress buster and may even help reduce the amount of stress hormones coursing through your body.
Another food high in B6 and B12, tuna is also packed with protein like lean beef. This means that it helps alleviate stress while also making you feel full longer which can cut down on snacking between planned meals.
In addition to raising our blood pressure and making us moody, stress also weakens our immune system making us more susceptible to getting sick. Garlic helps combat this side-effect of stress by boosting your immune system and providing a good dose of antioxidants.
Oatmeal is full of fiber which makes you feel full longer and can help you cut down on sugary or salty snacks. It also helps with the production of those all important neurotransmitters that improve mood and cognition.
Everyone knows that oranges are a great source of Vitamin C and when it comes to chronic stress, Vitamin C can be a savior. Vitamin C is a great immune system booster but also helps repair damage that cortisol, the stress hormone, can cause in the brain.
To find recipes that will fill your plate with these healthy, stress-reducing foods, check out our recipe page on Fill Your Plate.