Feeling stressed out lately? Here’s the deal. Your life is never going to be totally stress-free. But that’s okay. A little stress is actually good because those adrenaline surges prepare you to protect yourself in a fight or flight situation. And while you don’t have to run from sabertooth tigers like your distant ancestors probably did, you still live in a stressful world. And consistent stress can be a killer.
What do so many of us do in stressful times? We pig out. We reach for the Ben & Jerry’s, the candy bars, the pizza and other “comfort” foods that make us forget our troubles for a few minutes. But these unhealthy foods leave us feeling guilty and depressed because we know we’ve sabotaged our health and our weight loss goals.
One of the best ways to manage stress and live a healthier life is through nutrition. Did you know that certain foods fight stress, boost your feel-good hormones and dial down depression and anxiety?
They’re a powerful ally to any Health Hero because they serve as a bridge connecting your physical and mental well-being.
They help calm you during those freak out moments and give you the green light to eat your feelings with no regrets!
Here are some of my favorites:
It tastes great, instantly boosts your mood and makes you feel more vibrant and energized! Eating small amounts of dark chocolate (about 1.4 ounces) a few times a week lowers blood pressure and reduces cortisol and other stress hormones. Skip the sugary milk chocolate and go for the darkest organic chocolate you can find.
Yogurt with Berries
Combine two stress-busters in one great meal or snack. Low-fat Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and calcium, which help your body release those mood-boosting neurotransmitters. Fresh berries add a huge dose of antioxidants and the sweetness we often crave when in the middle of a stress fest. Mix in some blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or blackberries.
Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Honey
Total comfort food! A hot, tasty bowl of oatmeal really delivers. Complex carbs trigger your brain to produce feel-good serotonin that provides antioxidants and creates a soothing feeling that helps you overcome stress. Cinnamon has been shown to ease frustration, and honey boosts immunity while satisfying your sweet tooth. It’s quick and easy to prepare, so you’ll be feeling better before you know it!
While it does contain caffeine, green tea also provides L-theanine, an amino acid that can help you feel cooler under pressure. Green tea protects against some types of cancer, helps with weight loss and provides brain-boosting mental clarity. Drink two cups a day when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Nuts and Seeds
Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are loaded with fiber, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids – all things that can lower blood pressure and instantly boost your mood. Enjoy a handful of nuts on the go – or toasted and added to your favorite salad.
The next time you’re stressed out about something (at least it won’t be sabertooth tigers), avoid the temptation of processed, sugary foods that offer nothing but a quick distraction. Reach for one of my favorite stress-busting foods instead. They’ll help to reduce your stress and boost your happiness – without ruining your Health Hero status!
Make healthy living a part of every day.
The light in me honors the light in you. Namaste.
- Use food as medicine. Talk to your doctor about how you might enhance your happiness with food instead of pills and supplements.
- Plan ahead. Preparation is key to nutrition, so keep your kitchen stocked with stress-fighting foods. When you’re stressed, and have no healthy options, you’ll just grab whatever you can find. Having healthy options at the ready allows you to practice making good decisions – like grabbing the mood-boosting nuts rather than the greasy potato chips. You’ll always have something healthy and calming at the ready, which helps keep you stress-free and happy.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Condition yourself to overlook the small stuff and focus your stress-fighting efforts where they’ll make the biggest impact. Remember, the small stuff is just small stuff.
You can find this and other health articles by Dr. Partha Nandi, M.D., F.A.C.P., on his website, Ask Dr. Nandi.