Eating right can beat stress

Are you a stress eater? I know I am. Sometimes I don’t even know how stressed I am until I start craving something savoury. Other people crave sweets or chocolates or cakes and cookies. So MANY yummy distractions from our troubles! But I’m sure you know that even though it feels good when you are eating it, that reward you’re nibbling on just makes things worse. Both physically and mentally. From the guilt to added weight, it’s not a long term solution to an ongoing problem.

That’s because we’re just masking the issue. A bite here, a nibble there. These little moments add up in ways we don’t see but can affect us quite badly. Originally our bodies delivered a different message. Our nervous system and adrenal glands sent fight-or-flight signals to the rest of our body to help us think more clearly and be ready for a physical response. This basic instinct has evolved and we still use it to cope with potentially dangerous situations.

But in modern times, we don’t deal with dinosaurs attacking us as often, so our bodies compensate in other ways that are less urgent. Now our bodies give priority to other, less urgent functions. Like digestion. However it can make us feel ill and then turn into one more source of stress. And poor stress-management can lead to ongoing weight loss for many.  It’s a stress circle!

In good news, I am happy to share that certain foods can combat those pesky cravings and actually minimise negative effects such as weight gain. The most important first step is to be aware that you will always have moments that give you cravings. You can either be prepared with healthy snacks or make sure to eat regular meals that feed your body and soul and keep your blood sugar stabilized. Here are some additional tips and tricks:

Eat little and often

This keeps your metabolism active all day and minimizes energy highs and lows. Eating breakfast will kick start your metabolism, stabilize your blood sugar level, which can also lower stress. Fruit, fruit juice and whole-grain cereal are best for maximum benefits.

Eat well all day

Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day and focus on foods high in Vitamins B and C, and Magnesium like bananas, leafy green vegetables, avocados, nuts, seeds and also meat, fish and dairy products all contain essential B vitamins. Vitamin C foods include oranges, tomatoes, peppers, kiwi fruit, leafy green vegetables and broccoli. And Magnesium, which can help relax muscles and reduce anxiety is found in nuts, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, especially oats, brown rice and beans.

Meanwhile, try to avoid or limit caffeine in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Too much caffeine can have a negative effect on your body.  Since caffeine can stay in your body for six hours or more, avoid all caffeinated drinks after lunchtime and you will sleep better. Getting adequate sleep is an important factor in reducing stress levels. And you should reduce your intake of alcohol, sugar and salt as these can strip the body of essential nutrients and undo the work of a healthier diet.

By watching our diet, increasing our intake of stress-busting nutrients and limiting our intake of stress-inducing substances, we can feel better about ourselves and our well-being. And this can help us cope with stress better than ever.