With tight deadlines at work, social networking, strained relationships, and weekends that invariably seem too short, we are always strapped for time. Not surprisingly, health is the first casualty, as eating healthy is the last thing on our minds.
Nearly 40 percent of Indians report overeating or eating unhealthy foods as a result of stress. While it may seem tempting to drown your anxiety in a bowl of ice cream or to calm your nerves with a bag of chips, eating ‘comfort foods’ while stressed can be particularly dangerous to your health. Ironically, comfort foods worsen your health and contribute to obesity, increasing stress, but there are plenty of foods that can actually help relieve your stress. Indeed, some foods may help stabilize blood sugar, or better your emotional responses. So, the next time you feel like you’ve just about had enough, reach for these stress relieving foods to feel better.
Complex Carbs: All carbs prompt the brain to make more serotonin, the happiness hormone. Good choices for complex carbs include whole-grain breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals, including old-fashioned oatmeal. These foods also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.
Oranges: Oranges make the list for their wealth of vitamin C. Studies suggest that vitamin C can curb levels of stress hormones, while strengthening the immune system.
Spinach: Magnesium deficiency can trigger headaches and fatigue, which are compounded by the effects of stress. Just one cup of spinach helps boost magnesium intake, but you could also try some cooked soybeans or a fillet of salmon, as they are also rich in magnesium.
Fatty Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and may help protect against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Pistachios & almonds: They are chock-full of helpful vitamins; vitamin E to bolster the immune system, plus B vitamins, which may make you more resilient to bouts of stress or depression. If you already have weight problems, try to moderate your intake of nuts however, as they are calorie-dense foods.
Raw Veggies: Crunchy raw vegetables can help ease stress in a purely mechanical way. Munching on celery or carrot sticks helps to relax a clenched jaw, and this can alleviate stress to some extent.
Milk: Another bedtime stress buster is the time-honored glass of warm skim milk. Research shows that calcium intake helps relieve anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS.
Dark Chocolate: A bite of your favorite chocolate has a calming effect, because of a chemical called anandamide that works as a neurotransmitter, temporarily blocking feelings of pain and depression.
Chamomile Tea: Ever since the ancient Greeks began enjoying chamomile tea, it has been praised for its healing properties. Several studies have demonstrated a stress-relieving effect from the consumption of certain herbal teas like chamomile. Just drink one cup of the tea thrice a day and you should feel a lot better.
While adding these healthy foods to your diet, also limit your intake of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar; and if you smoke, QUIT! All of these substances can fire up your body’s fight-or-flight response, contributing to physical symptoms of stress, like a racing heart, trembling, clammy hands, anxiety, and irritability.
So, the next time you feel stressed, you can make better food choices, opting for foods that will actually make you feel better, instead of reaching for those simply classified as ‘comfort foods’!
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