Imagine the scene…
- You have just received the 5th project on your desk with a deadline marked “urgent.”
- You’re rushing to catch a plane, and you hit a traffic jam.
- Your kids are leaving their toys everywhere right after you’ve cleaned up.
- Your parent has just had a health scare.
- You’ve just had (another) disagreement with your spouse.
Does any of this sound like your life?
It’s okay. We’ve all been there. And if you’re like most of us, you might be reaching for sugar, caffeine, or salty foods in response to those emotions. But wait! You can easily make other food choices that will not only satisfy your craving and urge to snack but also begin the process of easing stress more and more over time.
Your Body on Stress
Your body goes on high alert when you find yourself in a stressful scenario (as above…or feel free to substitute your own). Cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone,” is pumping, and your body is going into fight-or-flight mode, ready to take on danger and threats to survival. Signals are sent out all over your physical self to prepare. Some functions are turned off (such as digestion), and some are sped up (for example, the rate at which your heart pumps).
But when stress becomes a regular event, imbalances and disturbances abound in your body. You may begin to suffer from a lack of sleep, which you then combat with caffeine. Fatigue increases sugar cravings, too, and fat begins to be deposited around the middle, a trigger for heart disease and diabetes. Immune systems and inflammation are engaged. Brain function blurs. Your body is depleted slowly and surely. The longer the stress cycle continues, the more serious the consequences that can arise.
Spoiler Alert: Eating for calm is not what you may think!
Clearly, you need to ease the stress. But if you’re thinking that soothing your nerves means eating traditional “comfort” foods, think again. Typical comfort foods are often sugary, carbohydrate-heavy, fatty foods that make you feel better—for a moment. Choices like ice cream, cookies, cake, chips, and alcohol may satisfy your immediate cravings, but they often trigger a cycle of unhealthy eating habits that leaves you tired and unfocused (and heavy).
I’m all for the kind of comfort that soothes now…and benefits you for the long haul, too! So instead of reaching for those standbys, think in terms of stress-busting power foods. Eaten not in one great binge but in small portions over time, these healthful choices will build up your ability to deal with life’s many upsets. Best of all, you’ll get that calm without breaking the calorie bank. Think of this as your path to eating for peace.
Eating for calm won’t happen overnight, but if you consistently choose these foods, you’ll see results. Your body and mind will thank you with greater resilience, clear thinking, high energy, and confidence—all without the trade-off around your waistline and no toll in guilt. Win/win!
Technically a fruit, these creamy, un-sweet slices of freshness literally stress-proof your body with vitamins and healthy fats. (They can be heavy, so think of one quarter of a whole avocado as a serving.)
Antioxidants and vitamin C are just two of the nutrients these fruits offer, with benefits for overall health and sharper brain function, too.
The nut with protein, healthy fat, and crunch, along with lots of zinc to fight anxiety, a cashew is hard to beat for nutrition. Small portion, please.
(4) chamomile tea
Traditional wisdom is right on the money with this one! Sip before bed to lower anxiety over time and promote sleep.
These perky green spears are rich in folate, which helps you stay balanced.
This delicious, bracing seasoning is also packed with powerful antioxidants to keep your immune system strong during stress.
(7) green tea
This brew offers theanine, an amino acid that helps you stay sharp and calm—and maybe even lose weight. Minor caution: Gauge how you do with green tea as it does have a small amount of caffeine.
Now here’s a traditional comfort food that truly is satisfying and good for you, too. A real serotonin producer, it’s calming, filling, and has health benefits.
These juicy gems are powerhouses of healing, immune-boosting vitamin C.
Surprise! These storehouses of zinc will help tame tension.
Omega-3s are the fats you need for feeling satisfied and for your brain, pain, and heart—and walnuts have lots of them.
And—wait for it!—my favorite stress-relieving food is……
This chocolate lover wants you to truly enjoy your treat (in moderation, please). Chocolate contains antioxidants and phenols that lower blood pressure—and also decrease a highly stressful mood.
Next time you’re feeling stressed, don’t snack blindly. Think about choosing foods that will offer relief now as well start you on a journey to greater health, peace, and vitality. Over time, consistently adding in these foods may help you to conquer stress, tension, and cravings in an easy, natural, and satisfying way.