Stress is a common part of American culture. Over half of the country feels stressed on a daily basis. How you cope with your stress is key to a healthy lifestyle.
In our stress management series, exercise and mindfulness were discussed in regard to how they can help alleviate stress and frustration. Eating can be a big part of a stress-laden life. The more you know about your body and how it handles stress, the more you can be in charge of your behavior and lifestyle choices.
Be Ready to Face Stress
Knowing your stress triggers and being prepared for busy days will help you in situations where you may fall into making an irrational food decision under the pressure.
If you do not have a coping strategy in place, you could easily fall into stress eating. Food and stress are closely paired when you feel anxious, nervous, and frustrated.
What is Stress Eating?
As your stress and anxiety levels rise, your desire for comfort is a natural reaction. Comfort food cravings are real. Comfort foods such as high-calorie treats are desirable to your taste buds. When you are stressed, you can achieve pleasure from foods that your taste buds desire.
Sometimes stress eating can get out of hand, it can create worse psychological stress and anxiety as you may be upset with yourself after stress-eating. You are not alone- there are reasons why heavy carbs and sugars help give short term relief to stress.
Poor Food Choices When Stressed
Not only do your taste buds crave the desirable high caloric foods, but stress actually releases hormones that make you hungry. Your adrenal glands secrete cortisol when you are anxious and stressed. Your body is a fine balance between chemicals and your lifestyle directly impacts the chemical balance.
The Two Hormones
The 2 hormones responsible for stress eating:
- Serotonin: This hormone is known as the feel-good hormone. When you are feeling down in the dumps, you can release the feel-good hormone when you eat carbohydrates and sugar-rich foods. This temporary surge in happiness from the secretion of serotonin does lead to stress eating. A stressful situation may seem to be more manageable when you feel good.
- Cortisol: Stress releases the hormone cortisol. When your cortisol levels elevate, you become hungry. Your cravings kick in and the cortisol levels remain high as long as there is a stress trigger.
You Can Choose Healthy Foods to Combat Stress
It is ok to eat when you are stressed and hungry. There are certain foods that can be more beneficial for you than a quick sugar-laden snack. If you choose healthy foods that are known to combat stress, you can stay on track with your new healthier lifestyle while boosting your mood and kicking stress to the curb.
- Calming Tea: Peppermint and chamomile teas are known to help with stress reduction. These teas have calming effects which can provide the benefit of muscle relaxation as well.
- Swiss Chard: The vitamin-rich green swiss chard can aid in relaxation, lessen headache tension, and help manage stress.
- Citrus Fruits: Fruits that are rich in vitamin C will help reduce stress levels. Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits are great for stress reduction and immune system boosting.
- Spinach: Rich in Vitamin B, spinach is a great energy booster and stress buster.
- Oatmeal: The comfort food oatmeal can help when you are feeling stressed by increasing your serotonin levels. This feel-good hormone can often be calming and help alleviate stress.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Fish, nuts, seeds, and supplements that are rich in omega threes can combat stress.
- Sugar-free gum: This category is a bit different. Many people tense their jaw when they feel anxious, frustrated, and tensed. Chewing food can help alleviate jaw clenching. Choosing a sugar-free gum may help with this tension.
Now that you have a list of some healthy food options to help combat your stress, go shopping! When you have these foods readily available, you may be more likely to choose this over junk food that may tempt you to stress eat.
We are here to help you! Please ask for food tips, healthy eating habits, and other ways we can offer support to you while you are on your journey to a healthier version of yourself.Tags: diet, healthy eating, healthy foods, meal planning, stress eating, stress management