Can You Eat To Beat Stress?
Stress compromises digestion. When stressed out, it is more difficult for the body to break down and absorb nutrients from the food we eat. It is also much harder to make healthier food choices when you are in a rush and hungry. Stress hormones make us crave the high-calorie and so high-energy, fatty, sugary, comfort foods. Great, perhaps, for bursts of physical energy but terrible when stuck behind a desk at work. These low-nutrient foods can also make us gain weight which makes us feel worse physically and psychologically. Reaching for caffeine can also exasperate the situation, disrupting blood sugar and hormones and affecting your much needed sleep.
Get organised – Plan your meals and snacks for the week as best as you can and fill your fridge and cupboards with healthy snacks you can grab on the go. Get rid of all temptation – if the biscuits and crisps aren’t there you can’t eat them!
Don’t skip meals – Eat regularly to avoid energy and blood sugar slumps that will have you reaching for quick fixes like chocolate and caffeine. If you eat regularly it is less likely that you will pig out when you do finally eat. If you feel like you can’t eat because your stomach is in knots – try smaller lighter meals/snacks like salads, smoothies and vegetable juices that are nutrient-dense and easy to digest.
Power up on protein – Eat healthy sources of protein at each meal to satisfy hunger and keep you mentally alert. Amino acids like tryptophan in protein can regulate serotonin levels and help stabilise your mood. Omega 3 fatty acids found in protein-rich fish and seeds can also help regulate stress hormones. Eat Salmon, mackerel, organic eggs, avocado, turkey, chicken, nuts and seeds.
Don’t forget the good fats – Whilst you should avoid unhealthy trans fats, there are fats that are crucial to keep you physically and mentally fit. Choose healthy sources of fat including virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado and avocado oil, hemp oil, grass-fed butter or ghee and cold pressed seed oils.
Be generous with the greens – Dark green vegetables are a rich source of calming magnesium essential for hundreds of reactions in the body including energy production as well as relaxation. Greens are also good sources of vitamin C and B vitamins, also essential for stress hormones. Have a portion of greens at every meal, for instance, in smoothies, omelettes, salads, soups or as side dishes. Feast on kale, spinach, watercress, broccoli, Swiss chard, cabbage, cos lettuce, zucchini, rocket (arugula), and sea vegetables like kelp and spirulina.
Keep it whole to be happy – Refined carbohydrates like white flour and its products are void of nutrients and wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. Opt for slow energy-releasing complex carbohydrates like whole grains that provide nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, fibre as well as keeping you fuller for longer.
Take time out to eat – Eating on the go, at your desk or whilst distracted by TV, bills or your phone, means your digestive system doesn’t stand a chance – it won’t even be activated. Take a little extra time to go sit somewhere, relax and enjoy your food. Turn on digestion by smelling your food and allowing your mouth to water. Chew your food properly to physically break the particles down and mix with digestive enzymes in saliva before mixing with digestive juices in the stomach. All of this will help to maximise the nutrients your body can absorb and use.
Healthy, tasty meals don’t have to take ages to prepare. We’ve picked some quick and easy, stress-busting recipes that will help put that spring back in your step.