Best Foods to Bust Stress
Mood and food are intimately related as certain flavours and aromas trigger memories of special occasions and feelings of contentment. All emotions including stress and anxiety trigger chemical responses in our body as hormone levels fluctuate and the sympathetic “fight or flight” system kicks in.
With each meal, we have the opportunity to counteract or subdue the stress response with the foods we choose. Here are a few top picks for stress-busting foods:
Seeds and nuts. Don’t let their high calorie count deter you. Seeds and nuts contain valuable B vitamins and a hefty dose of magnesium to help you make calming neurotransmitters like serotonin. Magnesium along with calcium is also useful for relaxing tense muscles. Sprinkle some sunflower or pumpkin seeds onto your salad or nosh on a few almonds or walnuts before a long meeting. Just remember to keep portions small as a little goes a long way.
100% whole grains. Women in particular are notorious for reaching for high-carbohydrate foods in times of turmoil. This craving may be the body’s way of asking for more fuel in preparation for a “fight”. Carbs also boost leaves of feel-good serotonin. Choose whole grains like brown rice, 100% whole grain bread or pasta for sustained fuel. For extra nutritional value, try ancient whole grains like quinoa, spelt, kamut and amaranth which are higher in protein and antioxidants.
Fresh fruit. Speaking of antioxidants, boost your vitamin C intake with oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, kiwis and cantaloupe. Prolonged stress depletes levels of vitamin C as the body’s defences against free radicals get worn down. At the beginning of a stressful week, make a big fruit salad with seasonal berries, melon balls and grapes to have ready for snacking or packing. Vitamin C from whole foods give you the added benefit of fibre that you don’t get from juice or supplements.
70% (or higher) cocoa chocolate. Stressful times call for a little indulgence so make your special treat count towards correcting the biochemical imbalances created by stress. Dark chocolate has been making headlines for helping with blood pressure reduction however researchers are also finding that this healthful food contains natural anti-depressants like phenylethylalamine. Like seeds and nuts, a little goes a long way so keep your indulgence to no more than 40 grams (1.4 ounces) per day. I shared a few chocolate recipes in my recent recipe roundup.
Reducing stress and practicing stress management techniques are important for your overall health. I will dive deeper into this topic and your athletic performance in a future post. Stay tuned!