No surprise here – stress mounts up when you’re busy.
Stress-related illnesses, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, are rapidly reaching epidemic proportions. Stress can build up in a busy lifestyle when you’re not prepared for a looming deadline, have a never-ending-to-do list, have anxiety because of that feeling there’s something you’ve forgotten, or perhaps feel you’re falling behind in your work.
When it gets a bit too much to handle, you’re tempted to throw in the towel and find something decadent and comforting to eat. Fries and cakes might be your first choice, but filling up on these foods will more than likely leave you feeling more anxious than ever.
Depending on the severity of the stress, which in some cases will definitely need medical intervention and possible medication, research has shown that anxiety and stress can be controlled with food.
Not just any food!
Studies have proven there are certain foods that help to reduce stress levels. Most of the foods do not take hours to prepare, and for busy folks, will be easy, quick-to-make snacks or meals.
Here are some of most common foods to look for when anxiety kicks in, and why:
- Asparagus is high in folic acid, which is a mood-enhancer, and a perfect snack to keep on hand for tense situations.
- Oranges are rich in vitamin C, known to reduce blood pressure and return the stress hormone cortisol to normal levels. It’s this hormone that causes you to crave the comfort foods.
- Whole grains, like whole-grain bread and pasta, are rich in magnesium, which is needed to prevent anxiety. Whole grains also create healthy energy and reduce hunger, both important in controlling stress and anxiety.
- Dark chocolate may help if you are craving something sweet. Research has shown 40 grams of chocolate per day can help cope with stress. It releases endorphins in the brain, having a relaxing effect on the body.
- If you are not lactose intolerant, a glass of warm milk is a great, time-tested remedy for both insomnia and restlessness. Milk is high in calcium and potassium, having a calming effect and helping relieve muscle spasms caused by tension.
- Berries – more than just a delicious fruit. Blueberries and strawberries in particular are considered by some nutritionists to be a superfood. Berries are loaded with phytochemicals (plant nutrients), folic acid, vitamins B and D, and omega 3. Research has clearly shown that berries will help you to cope with the trials and anxieties of daily life.
- Mixed nuts, such as peanuts, cashews, and almonds, have been proven to be true, potent mood boosters. Almonds are sometimes underrated, as they contain an impressive amount of zinc, an important mineral for maintaining a balanced mood. Other nuts, including almonds, also have good amounts of selenium, a mineral which studies have revealed to be effective in reducing anxiety and helping to elevate the mood.
All of the above foods, as well as others like avocados and dark green veggies, such as spinach, broccoli and lettuce, are beneficial for helping you cope with anxiety. They contain vitamins and minerals that are known to calm the mind and body. At the same time your energy levels get a boost, motivating you to get some exercise, which will also stabilize your mood.
Foods to avoid when you’re stressed.
As important as it is to eat the right foods to help ease anxiety, it’s even more important to make sure you don’t eat food that will aggravate your stress.
Some critical foods to avoid:
- Refined foods like cakes, pastas, rolls, cookies, and breads. These foods do not have any fiber to slow down the digestion of all the flour and sugar. Glucose levels go through the roof and spike the release of cortisol, which makes you crave even more of the same type of food.
- Don’t go for the so-called “healthy” granola bar. It can be just a sugar-rich candy bar with a few seeds added. Avoid other sweets as well.
- Skip the deadly, delicious ice cream, the universal favorite comfort food of the masses. The high sugar content will raise the cortisol levels and lead to raised anxiety and more stress.
- Avoid fried foods as much as possible, as even the ever-popular french fries are a big no-no! This comfort food is little more than unhealthy saturated fats, and greasy carbs.
Finally, something to remember.
Overcoming anxiety without medication, or even with reduced medication, involves making permanent lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to your food choices and getting some exercise.
Healthy eating and exercise is one of the best ways to control stress. Always make sure that you drink enough water, as studies have found that many people who have persistent stress are also somewhat dehydrated, which is known to cause more anxiety.
If you’re already taking medication for stress, do not stop taking it or even reduce it without discussing this with your doctor. Getting in a better state of mind by choosing the right foods is not a call to toss your meds!