Eat Your Stress Goodbye - Stress Reducing Diet

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Published:
February 8, 2021

Stress - a curse word in our society today.

There are just too many stressors in our everyday lives that it’s not hard to reach some degree of burnout at some point. And when you’re constantly stressed, your cortisol levels tend to rise. High levels of cortisol, in turn, can increase your appetite.

Unfortunately, for some people, this means turning to food traditionally categorized as “comfort food.” Think big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and alcohol.

Admit it, we tend to find comfort in a tasty meal. The same goes for a bottle of beer or a glass of wine.

However, this isn’t a good permanent solution.

Turning to unhealthy food might make you feel better temporarily. However, you will feel worse in the long run.

When your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you will begin to feel less energetic and more lethargic. In some cases, you may even find it more difficult to stay focused.

These are all common symptoms of stress. And once you become more aware of it, it can make you feel even more stressed.

In an integrative practice, stress and depression are treated by first looking at your gut.

Foods that Fight Stress

Stress fighting food

If you’re feeling a little more stressed than usual lately, it’s important to know which food can help with stress management. Conversely, you also need to know which food to avoid to keep your stress and anxiety under control.

One of the best ways to relieve stress is by eating a healthy, balanced diet. This includes a moderate amount of each of the different food groups.

To do this, ensure that your body gets optimum nutrition. Fill up on foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, and lean proteins. This helps to fight both physical and mental health problems. When it comes to choosing the foods to eat, some have a range of great properties.

Instead of providing a temporary fix, these will help heal and calm your mind permanently.

10 of the best stress-fighting foods:

  • Avocado – Avocados are a creamy and versatile fruit that can be eaten in a range of different ways. No matter if you enjoy it raw, made into sauces, dressings and dips, or in a smoothie. These nutrient-dense fruits have the properties to help your body destress. This is thanks to their high glutathione content which specifically blocks the intestinal absorption of certain fats which cause oxidative damage. Avocados also contain higher levels of vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene than any other fruit. Together, they complement each other’s stress-busting properties.
    However, be careful with portion control when eating avocado. Remember that it is high in fat. Additionally, glutathione is not always optimally absorbed. We introduced Emothion, an orally absorbed form of glutathione, to help with that.
  • Blueberries – If you’re feeling stressed out and reaching for snacks, swap chocolate or chips for one of the best superfoods. They can help with achieving lower cortisol levels and a higher level of calm. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants, especially anthocyanin. This means this berry is linked to a wide range of health benefits. For example, this includes sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind. All of these can help you to better deal with stress.
  • Chamomile Tea – When managing stress, it’s not all about what you’re eating. What you’re drinking can also alleviate or worsen what you're feeling. Drinking liquids that are high in sugars and caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks or soda, can actually increase your stress levels if consumed regularly. Chamomile tea has been used as a natural bedtime soother for so long. It has also been used in clinical trials. They determined that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Chocolate – Although it’s usually seen as an unhealthy treat, there is an undeniable link between chocolate and our mood. Studies have shown that eating chocolate can actually make you happier.
    However, that doesn’t mean that you can start munching on chocolate bars every time you're stressed out. Chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet.
    Dark chocolate is particularly good for you. It contains more flavonols and polyphenols, two hugely important antioxidants that can help combat stress, more than many fruit juices.
  • Beef – Grass-fed beef is not only kinder to the planet and animals, but it’s also good for people. Grass-fed beef has a huge range of antioxidants, including beta-carotene and Vitamin C, Vitamin E. All three can help your body to fight stress and anxiety.
    If you’re looking for more reasons to spend a little more money on organic, grass-fed beef, it’s also lower in fat than grain-fed beef. Furthermore, they are also higher in omega-3.
  • Oatmeal – Oatmeal is great in that it can be filling comfort food, but also has a large number of healthy properties to actually make you feel better from the inside out.
    A complex carbohydrate, eating oatmeal causes your brain to produce higher levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin. This chemical can help you feel calmer and less stressed. Studies show that kids who choose oatmeal for breakfast tend to be much sharper throughout the morning in school. This, in contrast to kids who had alternative morning meals.
  • Walnuts – If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option that will help you to control your stress levels better, walnuts are a great choice. There is no denying the sweet, pleasant flavour of walnuts. This can make them a tasty snack between meals or as part of desserts.
    A versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads. You can also add them to a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake.
  • Pistachios – Another food that is great for snacking on and can also help combat stress and anxiety in the long term is pistachios. Studies found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when you are stressed. This can put less pressure on your heart by further dilating your arteries.
    Along with this, the rhythmic, repetitive act of shelling pistachios can actually be quite therapeutic!
  • Green Leafy Vegetables – Leafy, green vegetables should be a pivotal part of anyone’s diet. Along with helping to combat stress, leafy greens are full of nutrients and antioxidants. They help fight off disease and leave your body feeling healthier and more energized.
    Dark leafy greens, for example, spinach, are especially good for you since they are rich in folate, which helps your body to produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is a ‘feel-good’ chemical. Making leafy greens a part of your diet will help you to feel happier and less stressed out overall.
  • Fermented foods – last but not least, eating fermented foods such as yoghurt can help to keep your gut healthy. This, in turn, will help to improve your mental health and reduce stress levels.
    The beneficial bacteria found in fermented foods such as yogurt actually have a direct effect on your brain chemistry. They transmit positive mood and behaviour regulating signals to your brain via the vagus nerve.

Vegan kimchi recipe for heart health

kimchi,fermented cabbage traditional Korean food.
kimchi, fermented cabbage traditional Korean food.

I’ve shared this recipe before, but it remains one that I think many people will find benefit with. This vegetarian take on the traditional fermented Korean dish is one that my family adores.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Napa cabbage, finely shredded
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger root, grated
  • ¼ red onion, minced
  • a small daikon radish, shredded
  • 1 red chilli pepper, seeded and very finely chopped
  • a tsp Himalayan crystal salt
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • dash cayenne

Method:

  1. Put the cabbage in a glass bowl with the salt and massage. This releases the fluid in the cabbage. Continue until the cabbage is covered in brine.
  2. Now mix all the other ingredients into the brine cabbage mix. Don’t be afraid to use your hands!
  3. Put the mixture with all the juice into a large glass jar. Press it all in firmly.
  4. The mixture must remain submerged in the brine the whole time that it ferments. I put a smaller jar with water on it to stop anything from floating to the top.
  5. Cover the bottle with a clean cloth and place in a warm place, away from direct sunlight.

Of course, depending on where you find yourself in the year, the kimchi will take anything from 2 to 10 days to reach the right tartness for you.

Once you have found the spot of heaven on your tongue, close the container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to a month.

Putting Together Your Diet Plan

Planning your meals wisely is key to not only staying physically fit and healthy. It also helps in staying mentally strong and being able to best manage your levels of stress. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best to reach for to snack on when you’re feeling worried and anxious is important to helping you get control over your emotions and fears.

When you’re feeling stressed, you may be tempted to reach for classic ‘comfort foods’ – usually foods that are laden with sugar, very starchy, or greasy. However, although these foods can make you feel momentarily better, they will actually make you feel worse in the long run.

Having stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, yoghurt, walnuts or pistachios, or even a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens in it can help you to feel better in both the short and long term when it comes to stress. When it comes to combating and dealing with stress in the long run, it’s important to make sure that for the most part, you are eating a diet which is healthy and balanced.

To stay on track, it’s a good idea to make a meal plan for your week ahead and make sure that you have a good selection of these stress-busting foods in your kitchen to make meals and snacks from when you’re feeling like stress-eating.

Making sure that the majority of your meals include foods such as lean proteins and leafy green vegetables will not only make you feel healthier overall but can improve your mental health and stress levels, too.

A good example of a healthy, stress-busting menu would be:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal with berries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and berries
  • Mid-morning snack: Natural yogurt with fruit or a handful of pistachio nuts
  • Lunch: A whole-grain pasta salad filled with plenty of leafy greens
  • Afternoon snack: Dark chocolate
  • Dinner: Grass-fed beef with vegetables
  • Before bed: Chamomile tea

Of course, you don’t need to stick to this menu – but it gives you a good idea! Remember to exercise good portion control when eating foods such as nuts, chocolate, yogurt or avocado! As the saying goes, you are what you eat – so make sure that first and foremost, you’re filling yourself up with foods that are good for your mental health.

Saintly sleep tea

stress reducing tea

This tea is a potent stress fighter and will help your body to let go of tension easily.  St. Johns Wort can negate the pill, so be careful of that one if you are on it.

Ingredients

  • 25ml Spearmint
  • 12.5 ml St. John’s Wort
  • 12.5 ml Chamomile
  • 5 ml Valerian Root
  • 12.5 ml Passion flower
  • 2.5 ml Himalayan salt
  • 12.5 ml Rosebud

Instructions

  1. Mix all of these ingredients well and keep in an airtight container
  2. To make the tea, add a teaspoon into a diffuser and add 200 ml water.
  3. Let steep for 3 - 4 minutes, pour and enjoy.
Dr. Carel-Piet van Eeden
About The Author

Dr. Carel-Piet van Eeden

Dr van Eeden completed his Ph.D and qualified in Holistic Life Counselling in December 2012 through the University of Sedona.  He is currently pursuing an MBAM through the same University.

After experiencing the trauma of cancer first-hand, Carel-Piet decided to leave his corporate position as legal business analyst and focus on the field of integrative medicine.  Together with Dr. Craige Golding, he works in the Golding Institute to provide evidence based integrative solutions and training for healthcare providers and patients alike.

As a practitioner, Dr. van Eeden focuses on a wide array of challenges people face.  Because of his diverse training, the challenges addressed in sessions are many and include:

  • Lifestyle management
  • Genetic testing
  • Emotional counseling
  • Mindfulness
  • Life Coaching