When it comes to stress, sometimes it’s all too easy to get caught up with what’s going on in your mind and forget about what you’re putting in your body.
There are a number of foods and drinks that can help or hinder when it comes to dealing with stress. Knowing what to eat more of and what to cut down on or avoid altogether can go a long way towards helping you improve your responses to stress.
Here are eight foodstuffs – some good, some bad – that can play a part in how you feel.
You Should Eat More…
Why? Well, there’s a relationship at play between the B vitamins found in lean meat, fruit and vegetables, and your mood. A deficiency in these vitamins, including vitamin B1, B12, and folic acid, has actually been shown to trigger depression. By eating foods rich in B vitamins as part of a healthy anti-stress diet, you can expect to experience a reduction in your symptoms.
Where You’ll Find It: beef, pork, chicken, leafy greens, citrus fruits, rice, nuts, and eggs
Did you know certain carbs can cause your mood to lift? This is because consuming carbohydrates can increase the production of serotonin (the chemical that makes you feel happy) in your brain. So when you want to have some carbs on your plate, go for the good stuff: the whole grains. Try whole wheat brown bread for your sandwiches or organic brown rice with your curry or stir fry. Unlike their processed cousins, whole grain carbohydrates release sugar into the bloodstream slowly, saving you from a sudden burst in energy that is quickly followed by a drop in blood sugar and, therefore, mood.
Where You’ll Find It: whole wheat bread or brown rice
Studies suggest that eating more omega-3 fatty acids can help alleviate symptoms associated with stress as well as reducing the risk of heart disease. Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA, which are found in fatty fish, have been linked with lower rates of depression. By adding more fish to your diet, you’re not only tapping into the best source of omega-3 available; you’ll also consume important nutrients such as vitamin D.
Where You’ll Find It: salmon, tuna, trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines – also flax seed and winter squash
Trypto-what? Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that can stimulate the production of chemicals such as serotonin in the brain, encouraging relaxation and improvement in mood. Consuming food rich in tryptophan can normalize serotonin levels and reverse symptoms of anxiety, irritability, and stress. It can also help improve sleep quality, and if you’re well-rested, then you’re less likely to fall into unhealthy eating patterns.
Where You’ll Find It: milk, bananas, oats, soy, poultry, cheese, nuts, peanut butter, and sesame seeds
You Should Cut Down On…
You may be one of those people who turns to coffee as a means of perking up in the morning. While this short, sharp boost of energy can be a positive, coffee and other caffeinated drinks come with a few potential negative side effects. For starters, it can leave you feeling jittery and irritable while also causing dehydration and disruption to your sleep pattern. It goes without saying that getting enough rest and staying hydrated can and will improve your mood. Consider replacing coffee with ice-cold water, particularly later in the day, to stay alert and keep thirst at bay.
Where You’ll Find It: coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, and sometimes chocolate
If you have a sweet tooth, then you’ll probably find solace in your favorite candies when you’re feeling especially stressed. They can give you a short-term lift as refined sugars are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, but this is followed by lethargic lows. Your body does require sugar, just not the refined sugars contained in those candies you crave. As part of an anti-anxiety diet, try swapping sweets with fresh fruit, such as peaches, plums or blueberries, which are chock full of good sugars and nutrients.
Where You’ll Find It: Candy!
As with everything, moderation is key, and when it comes to alcohol, there are a few things worth bearing in mind. Although you may feel like a few beers or a glass of wine after work can help alleviate stress, you must remember that alcohol is a depressant. And, like caffeine, alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning it can leave you feeling dehydrated and sluggish. If you don’t want to cut out alcohol completely, you should switch from beers and spirits to red wine. With moderate consumption, red wine has been shown to promote health and longevity.
Where You’ll Find It: beer, wine, and spirits
Processed & Fatty Foods
It’s pretty widely accepted that fast foods aren’t good for you, but did you ever think they could be triggering some of your negative feelings? With high fat content, sugars, and salt, foods such as cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken can have a detrimental impact on your mental as well as your physical health. In fact, a study carried out by researchers at the University College of London found that a diet largely comprising processed foods was a risk factor for depression, whereas eating whole foods (vegetables, fruits, and fish) helped protect against depression.
Where You’ll Find It: burgers, hot dogs, fried foods, and processed microwavable meals
Adopting an anti-stress diet isn’t going to cure you of anxiety or depression, but it may help alleviate your symptoms and complement other treatment options. Not only that, but when you choose to eat more of the good stuff and cut out more of the bad, you’re making a positive lifestyle choice.
Consider embracing regular exercise with your new diet to really see an improvement in your overall well-being.
Have you tried changing your diet? Did it work for you? Do you have any recipe recommendations? Let us know in the comments.