Stress eating is a pretty common phenomenon-- when people begin to experience the symptoms of anxiety or depression, many of them feel compelled to snack. After all, who hasn't heard jokes about polishing off a pint of ice cream after a breakup? While junk food isn't the best way to manage stress, there are some foods that can actually help you combat it. Before you reach for junk food, consider giving one of these natural stress fighters a try.
Berries pack a lot of stress-fighting nutrients into a tiny, delicious, easy-to-eat package. They're a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants, which help protect the body from inflammation and free radical damage during times of stress. Vitamin C also helps the body flush out cortisol, a stress hormone, and improves immune activity.
Though all berries are a good source of antioxidants, darker berries, like elderberries or black currants, typically contain up to fifty percent more antioxidant flavonoids than other species. Eat berries by the handful, try blending them into smoothies, or add them to yogurt, cereal, or salad.
Avocado is an abundant source of potassium, a mineral crucial to helping maintain healthy blood pressure. They're also a good source of B vitamins and folate, which can help lower stress levels.
Vitamin B is needed for a healthy nervous system, and anxiety can be a symptom of a B deficiency. Lastly, the monounsaturated fats present in avocado help lower blood pressure and maintain cardiac health. Enjoy avocados in place of mayonnaise on sandwiches, add some to smoothies to give them a creamier consistency, or mix up some guacamole and enjoy with tortilla chips.
Chamomile has been used for everything from relieving allergies to inducing sleep, even to help induce a state of deep relaxation prior to cardiac catheterization. Chamomile extract contains three hydroxylates-- apigenin, bisabolol, and luteolin-- that help relax muscles and blood vessels. Research has even indicated that chamomile may be helpful in treating people suffering from anxiety and comorbid clinical depression.
Ragweed allergy sufferers take note, however: chamomile is in the same family as ragweed, and some people experience oral allergic symptoms from consuming it. Otherwise, try a few cups of chamomile tea to help get you through times of stress. Chamomile tea can also be used as a base for soups, like creamy chamomile and cauliflower soup.
Serotonin is also known as one of the "Happy Chemicals," or neurotransmitters associated with a calm, relaxed, happy state. Oats are a natural way to help boost your body's production of serotonin. In addition to this, the fiber content of whole grain oats helps keep digestion working smoothly and eliminate waste from the body-- two important considerations when you're under physical or mental stress.
Enjoy a bowl of oatmeal in the morning for a warm, comforting start to your day. Whole grains take longer for your body to digest than cereals made from refined grains, so you'll feel fuller longer in addition to prolonging their stress-fighting effect.
Shellfish, like oysters, are a good source of the minerals zinc and magnesium. Zinc plays a key role in modulating how the body responds to stress, and low levels of zinc can increase the negative effects of stress on the body.
Unfortunately, high mental or physical stress levels can quickly deplete the body's zinc. Magnesium levels typically drop during times of stress, and low magnesium has been linked to symptoms like heart palpitations, headaches, and fatigue. Try adding shellfish to your diet to ensure you're getting adequate amounts of both of these important minerals, they're great in chowders, pasta sauce, or on their own with some lemon.
Chocolate is already one of the foods people most commonly reach for during times of stress, and there's some good reasoning behind it-- sugar boosts the release of serotonin, while compounds found in dark chocolate can help lower levels of stress hormones.
The benefits don't end there, either. Dark chocolate is a rich source of polyphenolic flavonoids, which help protect the cardiovascular system. These benefits are primarily limited to dark chocolate, however, and it's important not to eat too much; chocolate also naturally contains caffeine, which can make anxiety worse for those sensitive to it.