We all get stressed, some more than others, at different points in our lives. It’s important to know what foods to eat when you’re stressed! Stress affects the gastrointestinal system (esophagus, stomach, and bowel) greatly, so you can fight this with the foods that you eat.
When you’re stressed, you may eat more than usual. We all go for the salty or sweet snacks full of simple carbohydrates such as donuts and chips. We want some comforting food that isn’t necessarily the best for our health. When you eat more of the foods that you don’t normally eat, you can experience acid reflux or heartburn. When you’re stressed, your brain becomes more aware of what you’re stomach is feeling. Stress can cause nausea, pain, or “butterflies”. With chronic stress, even vomiting can occur, along with stomach ulcers. Ouch – no fun. More-so having to do with food, stress can affect digestion! This can affect what nutrients your small intestine absorbs – this is an important thing to note because most of the nutrients that you eat are absorbed by the small intestine. Stress can affect how fast/slow food moves throughout your body causing diarrhea or constipation… again, no good!
With all of that said, the foods that we eat can help counteract how stress affects the body. There are foods that are naturally soothing – not comfort foods like donuts – but foods that can help calm you… just with the nutrients that each of these foods contain!
1. Dark Chocolate
YES! I love chocolate… and I cannot lie, I eat it everyday. Preferably in salted caramel form – HA! But really, I love it. Dark chocolate has been proven to raise serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain. These chemicals make you feel… well, happy! Let’s not forget to choose to eat an appropriate amount of chocolate per day. I’m not talking about eating 3 bars of chocolate in one sitting. Choosing dark chocolate can help you avoid some fat and sugar that milk chocolate contains. Dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa is the best to choose from. Dark chocolate has the most antioxidants as well when compared to milk chocolate or white chocolate.
Berries are full of water, minerals, and vitamins. Vitamin C can have a significant effect on stress levels. Levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can be lowered with a increased intake of Vitamin C! Also, The antioxidants in berries can help your body fight against oxidative stress. This is caused by free radicals that cause illness. So berries also help the immune system and improve health.
Salmon is very high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s can keep cortisol and adrenaline levels from spiking when feeling stressed. Consume at least 4 ounces at least three times a week!
Who doesn’t want carbs when they’re stressed?! Oatmeal is the best carbohydrate you can eat because it is full of complex carbs. They are high in fiber, so they take longer to digest. Oatmeal helps activate serotonin in your body. Plus, it’s delicious – just add fruit and cinnamon… YUM!
5. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, are high in magnesium! Magnesium is a very important factor in muscle relaxation and promotes a good night sleep. Magnesium helps prevent nervousness, lower blood pressure, and prevent fear and anxiety. Eat your green veggies people!
6. Nuts – Almonds, Pistachios, and Walnuts
These nuts are high in Vitamin E and B2. These vitamins help boost the immune system, especially during times of stress. Grab some almond butter and spread it on some whole grain toast – YUM!
Avocado is considered a superfood for a reason! There are many benefits to eating avocado, including decreasing stress. These are also rich in B Vitamins (just like nuts). Avocados contain healthy fats (monounsaturated fats) which control hunger and blood sugar. Also, I know when I get stressed, my face breaks out from time to time… avocados are good for the skin due to their high levels of vitamin E! Have you ever had avocado toast? Well, it’s a life-changer. Whole grain toast + smashed avocado + salt & pepper = HEAVEN!
Chia seeds are my favorite! I love using them in multiple ways. Chia seeds are high in magnesium and B vitamins, which we already talked about being good for stress. Also, they have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids… which we talked about with salmon! Add them to your oatmeal, make a chia jam, or sprinkle them on top of toast with peanut butter.