Stress can wreak havoc on your regular eating habits. Many studies have shown the positive affect the right foods can have on your stress levels, as well as help to curb the unnecessary snacking and cravings you may experience when you’re stressed. Foods such as certain nuts, skim milk, turkey, salmon and oatmeal all have been noted to have positive effects on stress.
As I mentioned in my post Pump up your motivation for anything, I work at a pace that would cause a lot of stress for others. One of the ways I manage it is through food. I also have some major dietary restrictions so I can’t eat some of the foods I mentioned above. I did a lot of research and experimentation to find the right balance for me.
Here is what I have found beneficial for me with a little bit of background.
Everyone experiences stress; but when stress becomes long-lasting, it can affect health and have long-term consequences. Your body releases hormones such as cortisol, to help your body deal with stress. You may experience symptoms like anxiety, shallow breathing, muscle tension, and tiredness.
Over time, stress causes your adrenal glands to become overworked, and you begin to feel an extreme tiredness that can’t be relieved by sleep. It also affects many of your body’s functions including your metabolism, blood sugar balance and your cardiovascular system. Therefore, you may experience chronic headaches, mood swings, anger, memory problems, weight problems and increased blood pressure.
What you can eat to help
Eating the right foods is one of the ways to be successful in helping your body deal with stress. Here’s a list of the nutritional properties you need to combat stress and some options that are vegan, and free of gluten, dairy, seafood, and nuts.
- Flavonoids have relaxing capabilities: chamomile tea, green tea, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, tomatoes, eggplant, onions, celery, okra and broccoli
- Calcium and Magnesium have calming capabilities: sesame seeds, broccoli, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, green beans and herbs such as dill, oregano, and rosemary
- Serotonin is a calming hormone: carbs such as potatoes, foods high in omega-3 such as flax, soy, edamame, tofu, chia seeds, black-eyed peas, pumpkin seeds (without the shell) and winter squash
- Folate produces a pleasure-inducing brain chemical called dopamine: spinach, broccoli, collard greens, asparagus, chickpeas, beans, lentils, peas (black-eyed, pigeon), soy and beets
- Zinc helps regulate the brain and body’s response to stress: quinoa, brown rice, pumpkin and squash seeds, popcorn
- Antioxidants to repair the body: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, garlic, onions, tomatoes, green tea, spinach, broccoli, carrots and red grapes
- Potassium to help lower blood pressure: avocados, bananas, white mushrooms, baked potato, winter squash, spinach, and kidney, soy, lima and pinto beans
- Vitamin C has been shown to help physically and psychologically bounce back from stress: bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, bok choy, rapini, cabbage, papaya, mango, oranges, strawberries, kiwi, guava, lychee and blueberries
- Vitamin B has positive effects on mood: spinach, kale, collard greens, beans and lentils
Eating the foods listed below every two to three hours will help keep your blood sugar stable and prevent further stress on your adrenal glands:
- Protein-rich foods: beans, lentils, split peas, hummus, seeds such as tahini, sunflower, and pumpkin
- High-fibre foods: fruits, vegetables, quinoa, brown rice, beans, lentils, split peas
- Cinnamon: helps regulate insulin
As shown, some foods listed above have multiple benefits (e.g. spinach, blueberries, potatoes) so you may be able to target more than one stress-busting area by focusing on some of those options.
It’s also important to avoid the following foods while dealing with stress since these stimulate the adrenal glands:
Did you know?
Vegetable curry offers two benefits to help reduce stress. The chili peppers help the brain release endorphins to calm things down, and curry protects key parts of the brain against the effects of stress. Check out our recipe for a vegan, gluten-free version.
More stress-busting tips
- Exercise regularly
- Eat small meals throughout the day; it will keep your blood sugar stable (when blood sugar is low, mental, physical, and emotional energy decreases, and stress increases)
- Talk to a healthcare professional for help managing your stress
Speak to a nutritionist or registered dietitian for a program that works best for you and to ensure that you get the right amount of nutrients and portions specific to your needs.