When stress builds up, a lot of us turn to comfort foods. The problem is that most of these foods are not very healthy. The good news is that there are foods that may help decrease your stress.
Stress can make people feel insecure and uncertain about the future. Many people turn to so-called “comfort foods” because it reminds them of a time when their lives were much less complicated, such as childhood. Typically, foods like macaroni and cheese, meat and potatoes, chocolate, chips or ice cream embody the “comfort” of being cared for.
While these foods can temporarily make you feel better, they are often loaded with calories, fat, sugar, and salt. In the long run, they make you feel even worse. While it’s OK to turn to these foods every once in a while, there are some healthier alternatives.
Foods That Relieve Stress
There are foods that contain vitamins and nutrients which some studies have suggested can help relieve stress. Not everyone agrees with these studies, but the good thing about these foods is that, whether they relieve stress or not, they are good for you for other reasons as well.
- Almonds: Have you ever felt stressed on the job and quickly turned to the office candy dish or cookie stash to soothe your anxiety? A much healthier choice could be a container of almonds in your desk. Instead of reaching for that quick sugar fix, you can reach for some nutty flavor instead. Almonds are high in B vitamins, zinc and vitamin E, all of which may help reduce stress. They also contain antioxidants and good heart-healthy fats, something no sugary treat can do!
- Blueberries: If you can’t or don’t eat nuts, then try some berries, especially blueberries. They make a great snack and are high in vitamin C, another vitamin which may help reduce the impact of stress. Blueberries also are high in antioxidants and fiber. Fiber helps normalize your bowel functions, preventing both constipation and diarrhea, a common physical response to stress.
- Some cereals: Cereals take us back to our childhood. A healthy cereal is high in fiber and fortified with B vitamins, such as folic acid. A single serving of a high fiber cereal should contain 5 or more grams of fiber to be healthy, as good rule of thumb. You should also be aware of the sugar in your cereal. There should be no more than 20% of the total carbohydrates present in the form of sugar. A cereal fortified with B-vitamins is helpful since stress actually depletes the body of B vitamins, essential for energy and metabolism.
- Fruit and cottage cheese: My fondest memories are of my grandmother’s special desserts she made just for her grandchildren, canned peaches and cottage cheese. Fruits are high in vitamin C, which again may help fight stress. Cottage cheese is good because it’s packed with several B vitamins as well. Again, B vitamins can help beat stress. Just remember to get low-fat cottage cheese and use either fresh, frozen or canned fruits packed in water, not syrup.
- Fish: Remember fishsticks as a kid? Not only is fish a stressbuster, it’s also healthy for your brain and for your heart. Fish is high in several B vitamins and contains healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Instead of the heavily breaded fishsticks of the past, consider having a tuna fish sandwich on whole grain bread or a tuna salad. But make sure it’s not loaded with too much mayonnaise. Pack a nice tuna fish sandwich on whole grain bread with a delicious red apple into a paper bag for lunch, just like mom used to do as she sent you off to school each day.
Comfort food can be healthy food. Just a few minor adjustments can turn an urge into a nutritious snack, designed by nature, to help you de-stress.