A stressful day can send many people reaching for a scoop of ice cream or a bar of chocolate. These so-called comfort foods may sweeten our mood for the moment, but in the long term they can cause major damage and make us even more prone to stress. We reach for comfort foods because we are searching for a sense of wellbeing that comes with a sudden rush of blood sugar and brain chemicals. But this effect is only temporary, as we know, and eventually we come crashing down again.
A stressful lifestyle is one of the major reasons for failing to eat properly. However, an undernourished body is more prone to stressful reactions. Stress itself causes a depletion of nutrients that can only be replenished by natural, healthy food choices. Fighting stress with natural, healthy food stops this ugly cycle. If you nourish your body with the right foods, you’ll find it easier to manage stress and make healthy food choices. The next time stress is breathing down your neck, reach for some of this nutritious fare instead of a lolly, and you may find yourself whistling a much happier tune.
Slice an orange and pop a few blueberries, or go tropical with a pawpaw or a pineapple. All of these delicious fruits provide antioxidants such as vitamin C, which can reduce blood pressure levels and fight the effects of stress. A serving or two of fruit may also help curb those sugar cravings that are common when you’re under stress, especially when you eat fruit with avocado.
Your grandma was right: you must eat your greens. These are natural sources of B vitamins and folic acid, all of which work to influence mood. Greens such as spinach and wheatgrass are also rich in magnesium, a stress-fighting mineral that can relax the body and mind.
A handful of soaked (12-24 hours) almonds, walnuts or pecans contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals. The magnesium in almonds can be especially calming. Nuts can also stave off hunger and regulate your blood sugar when you can’t sit down for a balanced meal.
On the other hand, what you eat can cause stress if you make the wrong choices. Caffeine, alcohol and sugar are the top culprits of food-induced stress. These send your brain chemicals on a toxic roller coaster that will lead to a short fuse, difficulty concentrating and fatigue. Manufactured food laden with additives can cause chemical imbalances and deplete the body of vital nutrients it needs to fight stress. It’s just as important to avoid these stressors as it is to eat the right stuff.