For many of us, stress can be a common precursor to binge eating, where in order to suppress negative emotions in the face of overbearing situations, one might resort to excessive indulgence in the so-called comfort (junk) foods.
Devouring that tub of ice cream might be able to give you instant gratification, but the long term repercussions leave a lot to be desired. Comfort foods usually tip the scale in unhealthy fats, sugar and sodium content, which are underlying factors constituting to undesirable weight gain, diabetes, high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases, to say the least.
It is therefore crucial to choose your intake wisely, especially in the face of such stressful situations, where consuming comfort foods might only bring a downward spiral to your mood and overall well-being. On the other end of the scale, there are an array of beneficial calming foods which can uplift the mood, relieve bodily tensions and bolster resilience against the negative effects of stress.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Dark Leafy vegetables such as spinach are rich in a water soluble B Vitamin known as folate. It is able to help the body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. It was reported in a study carried out in 2012 that people who consumed high amounts of folate tend to face a lower risk of depression.
A research from the University of Otago found that consuming whole fruits and vegetables had a calming effect on young adults. It was mentioned by Dr. Tamlin Conner, a researcher from the Department of Psychology that: "On days when people ate more fruits and vegetables, they reported feeling calmer, happier, and more energetic than they normally did."
Fish, especially salmon, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can help to keep stress related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline from peaking in the face of a tense situation. It is recommended to consume about 120 grams, at least three times a week, in order to maintain a resilient heart and keep those stress hormones at bay (2).
A study in Brain Behavior and Immunity reflected a significant drop in anxiety by as much as 20 per cent among medical students who took omega 3 on a consistent basis (1).
Pistachios and Almonds
A study showed that consuming two servings of pistachios everyday led to a lower vascular constriction in times of stress. This means that during a tense situation, the impact on the heart is reduced due to the dilation of the arteries (1).
Almonds contain rich amounts of vitamins B2 and E which are essential in building a strong immune system to combat the ravages brought about in times of stress (2).
Dark Chocolate (1)
Just to be clear, milk chocolate and those laden with sugary contents do not make the count in this section. A pure bar of dark chocolate contains a chemical known as anandamide, it is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that has the ability to temporarily block feelings of pain and depression. One study showed participants who drank chocolate beverages amounting to 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate on a daily basis felt calmer than those who did not. It is no wonder that dark chocolate has been termed as the new anti-anxiety drug.
Blueberries contain a rich amount of antioxidants known as Anthocyanins which helps the brain increase production of a hormone called dopamine. Dopamine is not only essential in coordination and memory functions, it also helps to improve the mood. Research has shown that increased consumption of blueberries led to a boost in a type of white blood cells that is essential in bolstering the immune system and countering the negative effects of stress.
Experiencing feelings of anxiety may be caused by a Vitamin B deficiency and avocados have an abundance to fill in the gap. In addition, the high monosaturated fat and potassium content found in avocados are beneficial in lowering blood pressure (2).A study also revealed that people who ate half an avocado along with their lunch reported being 40 per cent less hungry three hours after mealtime and 28% less hungry right at the five hour mark. The study also revealed that avocados were able to help the body better regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day. With satiety and blood sugar kept at a steady level, the mood of the person will also tend to be more stable (1).
(1) Mercola. (2015, April 27). 10 Superfoods That Reduce Stress. Retrieved March 16, 2016, from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/04/27/10-stress-relieving-superfoods.aspx
(2) Tanya, Z. (n.d.). Eat to Beat Stress: 10 Foods That Reduce Anxiety. Retrieved March 16, 2016, from http://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-eat/eat-to-beat-stress-10-foods-that-reduce-anxiety