What do you reach for when you are under stress? A bag of chips? A pint of ice cream? What is your “comfort food” of choice? Stress eating or emotional eating may temporarily make you feel better but in the long term, I promise, you will regret it
By Barbara Bates
What do you reach for when you are under stress? A bag of chips? A pint of ice cream? What is your “comfort food” of choice?
Stress eating or emotional eating may temporarily make you feel better but in the long term, I promise, you will regret it. A much better way to deal with the stress is to address the situation responsible for triggering the unhealthy eating habits in the first place.
Until you can get there – and to help you get there – opt for these stress-busting foods to consume and other stress-inducing foods to avoid. This strategy will assist your mind, enhance clarity of thought and help your body come back into balance.
Foods to Grab Onto
- Green Leafy Vegetables - green leafy vegetables, including spinach, kale and Swiss chard, contain folate that produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical (or neurotransmitter), to help you keep calm.
- Fermented foods - Beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, are abundant in fermented foods, and may positively impact your mood and brain health, given that they are able to move mood- and behavior-regulating signals to the brain via the vagus nerve. Choose fermented sauerkraut, kimchi, plain yogurt or kefir.
One example of a beneficial probiotic is the Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain. It improves GABA levels in the brain (an important neurotransmitter related to anxiety management), and helps decrease stress-inducing hormone levels. A healthy gut helps alleviate anxiety- and depression-related behavior.
- Omega-3 fats - Ideally acquired from fish like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines or anchovies, or high-quality krill oil supplements, omega-3 fats can do wonders for your mood, inhibiting initial symptoms of depression and decreasing anxiety.
- Blueberries - Pigments called anthocyanins are responsible for the deep colors of blueberries, and help with the brain's production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that may boost your mood, memory and function.
- Bananas - These yellow fruits are home to dopamine, which may assist with promoting a better mood. Other vital mood-boosting nutrients present in bananas include B vitamins and magnesium. Both may support and calm down the nervous system.
- Kiwis - These vitamin C-rich fruits assist with combating infections and aid in alleviating stress.
- Dark Chocolate - Anandamide, a neurotransmitter found in dark chocolate, is said to be beneficial in inhibiting negative feelings of pain and depression. However, eat chocolate in moderation and make certain that it has a cacao content of 72% or more, with no dairy and no processed sugar added.
Let Go of Mood-Wrecking Foods
Steer clear of these three types of foods if you have been diagnosed with anxiety or are feeling anxious, since they can exacerbate symptoms:
- Sugar- Excessive sugar intake may contribute to different health problems for your mental and overall health. Apart from causing changes to blood sugar levels and mood swings, consuming sugar may lead to insulin and leptin resistances that can cause impaired brain signaling. It can also reduce BDNF activity that may negatively affect stimulation or promotion of healthy brain neurons. In simplest terms, sugar can negatively impact overall brain function.
Not only that, but sugar can also worsen your anxiety symptoms - especially when they are combined with caffeine, as seen in beverages like sports drinks. Plus, sugar may also increase your depression risk if consumed in excessive amounts, since this substance may cause chemical reactions in the body that may trigger chronic inflammation, microbiome imbalance (bacteria in the gut) and immune system disruptions.
- Gluten- This protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley has been shown to negatively impact mood and brain health. Not an easy food to give up because it is “everywhere” but well worth the effort. Think bread, bagels, cereal, muffins, cookies, pasta, crackers, pizza, cake, etc. Note: you do not have to be celiac to benefit from the removal of gluten – especially wheat products.
- Processed Foods- Avoid these foods, which are usually made with sugar and/or gluten, trans fats, artificial sweeteners and colours, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and synthetic ingredients. They can disrupt the delicate balance in the body and cause irritability and poor mood among other health concerns. If nature made it, eat it. If a factory made it, do not consume :)
To learn more about Barbara, please visit her website.