- Amy Salman, Founder, The Wellness Map
Eat To Beat Stress
Stress. We all have it and most of us would like a lot less of it. While there are many ways to help manage stress like meditation, journaling exercises, and daily movement, what you eat plays a significant role too. There's a reason you reach for sugary, fatty, salty foods when you get stressed. Your body's adrenal glands release the stress hormone cortisol, which increases your appetite. As someone who used to be a stress eater, I now nourish my body with delicious, stress reducing foods that heal my body in many ways. Here's some of what I used to eat and the healthy stress reducing swaps!
Coffee with Cream & Artificial Sweetener Swap with Tea
When you’re stressed out, the last thing your body needs is a dose of caffeine with a side of chemicals. While the initial dose of caffeine may give you a temporary boost of energy, it ultimately will send you crashing, leaving you irritable and tired. Top that off with artificial sweeteners which leave you craving more sugar, and that's not good news for your mood or energy. Instead, opt for green, oolong, or black tea loaded with antioxidants. "All teas from the Camellia plant are rich in polyphenols, antioxidants that detoxify cell-damaging free radicals in the body. Tea has about 8 to 10 times the polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables", according to long-time tea researcher John Weisburger. Tea also helps soothe stress and promotes relaxation. One British study found that people who drank black tea were able to de-stress faster and had lower levels of cortisol.
Bagel & Cream Cheese Swap with Avocado Toast
Instead of a bagel with cream cheese, rich in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats, opt for avocado toast with a whole grain bread high in fiber like Mestemacher or Food for Life (also available in gluten free). Top it with avocado, rich in stress-relieving B vitamins, monounsaturated fat and potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure.
Cheese Pizza Swap with Veggie Pizza
Choose a gluten free, cauliflower, or whole wheat crust topped with low sugar tomato sauce and load it up with veggies. Instead of mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with parmesan and add lots of spice like garlic and hot pepper. Eating a variety of vegetables as part of your daily diet is associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases. Vegetables provide a source of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, folate (folic acid) and vitamins A, E, and C. Options like broccoli, spinach, tomatoes and garlic provide additional benefits, making them a superfood! Fiber from vegetables helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.
Traditional Burger & Fries Swap with Grass Fed, Wild, Options & Sweet Potato Fries
Grass fed bison and wild salmon provide a great source of omega-3 fatty acids which have countless benefits that include lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol, fighting depression and anxiety, and promoting brain health. Enjoy a side of baked sweet potato fries which help stabilize blood sugar levels, have high levels of antioxidants, boost brain function, enhance immunity, and aid in weight loss.
M&M's Swap with Dark Chocolate (70% Cocoa Content or Higher)
Researchers found that eating the equivalent of one average-sized dark chocolate candy bar (1.4 ounces) each day for two weeks reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as the “fight-or-flight” hormones known as catecholamines in highly stressed people.
Now that's good news for chocolate lovers!
Pretzels or Potato Chips Swap with Baked Veggie Chips
Instead of salty, oily chips and pretzels, get creative with your favorite vegetables. Find in your local health food store or make your own! Lay your favorite veggies on a baking sheet, sprinkle with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and nutritional yeast, bake until extra crispy, and eat until your heart's desire. Choose from jica (jicama), kale, zucchini or sweet potato chips.
Soda Swap with Lemonade Spritzer
Instead of a sugary or artificially sweetened soda which will leave you craving sugar and spike your appetite, opt for sparkling water with fresh lemon and stevia. This homemade lemonade spritzer will leave you feeling refreshed with an added dose of Vitamin C from fresh lemons. Vitamin C helps to regulate cortisol and prevent blood pressure from spiking in response to stressful situations.
Ice Cream Swap with Frozen Fruit Ice Cream
Freeze up an avocado or banana and blend. It's seriously that simple and naturally delicious. We discussed avocado benefits, so here's what bananas can do for you! They help overcome depression due to high levels of tryptophan which is converted into serotonin, the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter. Bananas help regulate blood sugar and produce stress-relieving relaxation. Grab your recipe below!
Alcohol Swap with a Mock-tail
After a long, hard, stressed-out day, a cocktail may be just what you think you need, but in reality, drinking alcohol is counterproductive for stress-management. Alcohol stimulates the release of more stress hormones and has a depressive effect on mood, which can further exacerbate stress. Instead, opt for a mock-tail like a mojito mock-tail. It's a mix of sparkling soda, fresh mint, agave, simple syrup, or stevia, and fresh lime.
I hope you find these helpful. They have helped me tremendously over the years with my stress levels and overall health. May you find them as beneficial as I have.
To your health & happiness,