We’ve all heard of stress-eating, but what if you flipped it and used foods to manage your stress?
If you’ve been reading our blog, you’ve noticed that we here at One Degree Health are huge supporters of using “food first” in healing.
Whether you’re suffering with complaints of low energy, digestion issues, poor sleep, or headaches, or have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease or cancer, looking at the foods you’re eating is one of the very first things that we do with our clients. We do this not only because we believe in the power of food to heal, but also because it’s an easier habit to start shifting. You’re most likely already eating 3 times a day, so why not tweak what you’re already doing to a healthier choice?
Using Foods to Build Your Resiliency
Certain foods can help you, while others can sabotage your health and cause undue stress on the body.
But beyond the physical aspect, foods can also be used to support your mental health and build your resiliency to stressors. Studies have shown that a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods will not only help with your physical complaints but are also natural stress relievers.
Food is fuel for our bodies. And just like automobiles, our bodies don’t perform well with bad fuel. There’s a reason doctors tell us to avoid junk food, and it’s not just because it can pack on the pounds. It’s because certain foods also contribute to our stress levels.
To improve your resilience to stress, you need to fuel your body with the defenses it needs. Because when you have the right foods in your toolkit, you’ll be able to respond on a much more even keel should something throw a wrench in your day.
Let’s explore how foods can help you manage your stress and build your resiliency.
Everything that we consume also has an effect on our emotional health.
So when you’re stressed, or know it’s going to be a harder day, it’s important to be mindful of what you’re choosing to eat both before and during.
Under duress, like many people, you might be tempted to reach for some unhealthy snacks, like a soda or candy bar from the vending machine or something more comforting like a donut.
Such foods may give you a momentary boost, but then comes the crash – a negative “energy zapping” effect on your body, decreasing your ability to be resilient to stress.
According to a study by the American Psychological Association, 38% of adults reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods in the past month due to stress. 33% said they do it because it distracts them from what’s causing them to be stressed.
While there are plenty of “energy zapping” foods to watch out for, right now, let’s just focus on the key foods that you can start adding into your life to support your mood and stress resiliency.
Here at One Degree Health, we know that it’s way easier (and more fun) to add foods into our lives rather than try to remove or quickly overhaul old habits.
When just get started on your health journey, remember this: Look to first add a healthier option to your plate before trying to remove an unhealthy one. This is what will give you the momentum to make future healthier choices.Danielle Atcheson, One Degree Health
And if you want more guidance on “adding into your diet” versus restricting and depriving yourself, then I encourage you to check out my Health Shift Formula(TM) online coaching program.
13 Stress-Busting Foods
You’re now ready to learn which top foods and nutrients to add to your diet to increase your resiliency to stress.
There are 13 of them, so let’s get into them.
First up is Nature’s perfect food, the Avocado.
Avocados are high in B12 and healthy fats which support brain health. B12s are very important to have in your diet as they are a key support nutrient for your stress response system.
If you’re not able to get avocados into your diet, look to add a B-complex supplement into your routine. We like this one from Designs for Health.
Next are walnuts.
Here’s a fun fact, a walnut is shaped like a brain. And what a coincidence, walnuts are amazing for brain health!
Did you know that your brain sends the signal out to the other systems about how to respond to a stressor?
Because the brain is part of the frontline of stress defenders, it’s best that we nourish it with healthy fats like Omega 3s and nutrients it needs to do its job. Walnuts are an excellent source of Omega-3 fats and make for an easy healthful snack.
Next are berries, and most especially blueberries.
Berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are high in the antioxidants and vitamin C needed for stress-busting.
Vitamin C is imperative for our immune systems, but it does more than just fight colds and viruses. It also naturally curbs stress hormones. And the less stress hormones we have, the calmer we feel.
Make blueberries your go-to berries… add them to your morning oatmeal, or bring some to work for a mid-day or mid-afternoon snack.
Salmon is the next stress buster because its high level of omega 3s keep your adrenaline and cortisol levels from spiking.
Ideally, you want to look for salmon that is wild caught, and avoid farmed salmon from the Atlantic.
If salmon isn’t your thing, you can also reap these same benefits of omega-3 fats with flaxseeds, aforementioned walnuts, or oral supplements.
Flaxseeds are a great addition to a morning smoothie, and ground flaxseeds are a great susbstitute for eggs in baking.
Our preferred Omega-3 supplement is this one from Nordic Naturals.
If you’re vegan, look for an Omega-3 supplement made from either flaxseeds or ahiflower.
Next up is water. Yes, water.
Water is brain fuel. Your brain is made up of about 75% water and needs water to function properly. And since your brain controls how you respond to stress, here’s another reason to add more water to your every day.
If you have a hard time drinking enough water, then download my free Healthy Habits Tracker to get some free coaching tips on how to effortlessly increase your daily water intake.
#6 on our list is the stress buster, Oatmeal.
Oatmeal is a complex carb causes your brain to produce serotonin, which is our happy feel-good hormone.
When picking an oatmeal, choose organic steel-cut that’s also marked as gluten-free. The steel-cut form is a less processed (aka more “whole” than it’s rolled oats counterpart) which will help you stay feeling fuller longer and will keep your blood sugar balanced.
Add some stress-busting blueberries and walnuts and you have the perfect meal to start your day!
Health Tip: Always look for oats that are marked “gluten-free”. While oats are technically gluten-free in nature, most are processed in facilities where there is a high level of cross-contamination. Since gluten is known to increase inflammation in the body, it’s best to seek out steel-cut oats marked explicitly as gluten-free. Here’s one of my favorite gluten-free organic steel-cut oats.
Next up are almonds. A quarter cup a day will help fight stress. You can keep some handy at your desk at work as a healthful snack at work.
Be sure to get organic almonds.
Another yummy option is to add some almond butter to organic green apple slices for a stress busting snack.
Next up, asparagus. Yes, asparagus. I was surprised that this vegetable made it to the stress busting list too. But it’s for good reason.
Asparagus is high in folic acid and folate acid. These are members of the B vitamin family, which as you now know are needed for brain and body support.
Add a side of grilled asparagus to help you be more resilient to whatever comes your way.
9. Green Tea
This next one has been getting a lot of media attention recently as for good reason, Green Tea.
Instead of reaching for the stale breakroom coffee, grab a bag of green tea.
The antioxidants and the amino acid theanine will help make you alert and resilient.
Also from the same leaf comes Oolong tea. So if needing a slightly higher content of caffeine and a sharper flavor, Oolong tea might be what you’re looking for.
Next is Chocolate, but not just any kind, Dark Chocolate.
A square of dark chocolate not only makes for a great treat, but also has antioxidant properties to help combat stress.
The key is that it has to be dark chocolate, not milk chocolate, with a cocoa or cacao level of 60% or more. Ideally 72% or more cacao.
For a bonus, look for dark chocolate that has been sustainably sourced so you can feel good from the chocolate as well as about how it was produced.
I personally love Tony’s Chocolonely – amazing chocolate and an outstanding mission to make all chocolate fair trade (which includes being slavery-free).
11. Spinach & Kale
Next up, mama always did say eat your greens. And here’s yet another reason why.
Greens are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K. They are jam-packed with fiber, folic acid (a B vitamin) chlorophyll and many other micronutrients and phytochemicals – not to mention protein.
Spinach and kale are ones you should definitely increase in your diet for stress resiliency.
Their magnesium helps regulate your cortisol levels. Our bodies need enough magnesium in order to fight fatigue. You can find it in these greens, as well as in salmon.
If you know you’re going to have a day with a higher level of stress, maybe a client meeting or a crucial conversation, add some spinach to your omelet or shake in the morning, or at lunch, order the spinach or kale salad.
Grab my recipe for this stress-busting kale salad here.
Garlic contains potent antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, which help support an immune system lowered by stress.
It can also help reduce tissue and joint inflammation, which increases in the face of stress.
Add crushed garlic to a salad dressing, or to your next dinner at home like a vegetable medley.
13. Vitamin D
Last but not least, is Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is needed for brain development, and low levels have been associated with various psychiatric conditions.
Although vitamin D can be found in a few foods, the best sources are through supplementation and sensible sun exposure.
Have a stressful day, meeting, conversation? Then get outside for a few minutes.
By incorporating all of these nutrients into your regular diet, you’ll soon feel much calmer and better focused as you go about your day.