By David Grotto, RD, LDN
Everyone handles stress in different ways. Some sleep more, some yell and scream, some channel their stress in more positive ways like physical activity while others turn to high-calorie comfort foods that relieve stress in the short-term, but often do more harm than good in the long run. If you are a stress-muncher, here are some foods and suggestions that may help you tackle stress one bite at a time.
First off, it’s a good practice to avoid the sugary treats when you’re trying to calm your stress. Simple sugars spike your blood sugar, giving you a quick burst of energy, but then your energy falls again, leaving you under energized and more stressed!
Guac out! Avocados are a healthy fat source and provide potassium and antioxidants like vitamin C. These nutrients help battle high blood pressure, and when you’re stressed any help to decrease blood pressure is beneficial! Ounce per ounce, avocados have more potassium than bananas!
Sing the Blues. The high vitamin C of blueberries is what helps fight off stress; its antioxidant properties help protect cells from damage. A study found that people with higher blood levels of vitamin C show less mental and physical signs of stress when faced with challenges.
Orange you gonna take it easy? Like blueberries, this citrus fruit provides a wealth of vitamin C. Studies have found that C has the power to reduce levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Now, doesn’t that make sliced oranges sound more appealing than a slice of frozen pizza you might turn to after a stressful day at work? Orange consumption is higher than any other fruit in the U.S., but this is also attributed to the popularity of orange juice. Although orange juice is a good source of antioxidants and is a better choice than soda, try to limit your intake to a cup a day and also reach for the fresh fruit form, which has more fiber, leaving you feeling more satisfied.
Go nuts! Vitamin B6 and omega-3s in pistachios and all that crunching help lessen stress and tension. They help reduce blood pressure and inflammation, allowing blood to flow more efficiently. Pistachios are also a good source of fiber and a serving contains about the same amount as a serving of oatmeal — 3 grams!
Go fishin’ The high omega-3 content in salmon helps to keep stress hormone levels like cortisol and adrenaline in control.
Popeye “leaves” stress behind. There are so many goodies provided by spinach, like the stress buster magnesium! Low magnesium has been found to trigger headaches and fatigue, which certainly isn’t a good feeling when trying to relieve stress. Careful to not overcook spinach because micronutrients leach out; the best way is to enjoy raw or just a quick steam. Remember that the green-tinted water you have left over when boiling, for example, is where a lot of the vitamins and minerals are.
Tuna out stress. The omega-3s in tuna help relieve stress, but the high B vitamin content is very helpful as well. A 3 oz of tuna has about half a day’s worth of B1, B3, and B6. Canned tuna is probably a more realistic and affordable weekly meal option, but opt for the water-packed varieties to save on calories and fat.
What foods help you bust stress without busting out of your jeans?