Reaching for a cheeseburger and doughnuts is almost second nature when you're stressed. While unhealthy comfort foods can calm you down and make give your mood a boost, it is usually just a moment of euphoria before negative effects set it, like sugar spikes, lack of energy and heightened irritability. Read below for our top 7 foods to eat when you're stressed.
Green leafy veg
Swapping your stressed lunchtime sandwich for a leafy green bowl will do wonders for your mind. Leafy green veg (like spinach, kale, etc.), contains folate which produces dopamine. Dopamine is a mood-lifting chemical in the brain which can help you feel at ease when the work piles up.. While leafy greens are one of the most mood lifting vegetables out there, eating lots of vegetables throughout the day in general helps to destress the mind.
Tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, help produces serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical produced in the body which regulates feelings of happiness. Tryptophan could singlehandedly have a calming effect so make sure you try incorporating it in your diet when stress levels are high!
Other foods that contain high levels of tryptophan include nuts, seeds, tofu, fish and beans.
Porridge oats is a good one for when you're stressed. Most of us crave carbs and substantial snacks when we're under pressure. It's important to not completely cut the craving, however, when your body is asking for carbs. Not only can deprivation make you more stressed, but carbohydrates are said to help the brain make serotonin. When the stress hits, your best bet is to reach for complex carbs. They'll curb the craving but won't cause a spike in your energy levels which inevitably leads to a crash and even more stress.
Omega-3s fatty acids in salmon have anti-inflammatory properties, which interestingly, can help counteract negative effects of stress hormones. Failing salmon, try taking omega-3 supplements on a regular basis to help destress your mind or manage your stress better.
Did you know that having a high immune system plays a large part in countering stress? The antioxidants and phytonutrients in blueberries help strengthen your immune system. Eating blueberries can also boost white blood cells which further help your immune system.
Pistachios can help reduce stress in a couple of ways. Firstly, shelling them is therapeutic, and this goes for any kind of activity that is repetitive with your hands (knitting or kneading bread). The rhythmic movements help you to relax. Moreover, pistachios are good for your heart and can help lower blood pressure and heart rate - very helpful when stress gets to you. Finally, pistachios contain phytonutrients and antioxidants which can help increase your immune system.
Magnesium in seeds can help regulate emotions. This means it can help calm outbreaks of stress and anxiety, but also other emotions that come with feeling highly stressed. Seeds that are high in magnesium include flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. You could also try taking magnesium supplements when regularly, when you're going through a stressful period, or to help alleviate symptoms of PMS!