Eating when you’re stressed is completely normal and it most certainly isn’t the sign of some sort of disorder. In fact, our grandparents would often find themselves diving into recreations of their mother’s pot pie or chicken soup every time they felt a little on edge.
But while the habit of eating to beat anxiety pangs hasn’t changed, the type of food that people identify with as “comfort food” certainly has. Previous generations sought solace in foods that were prepared by their caregivers because the person who cooked it made them feel safe. Today’s millennials, however, find themselves reaching out for tubs of ice creams, huge slices of fatty pizza, or a big bowl of mac ‘n cheese. These foods have the ability to signal changes to the neurological dopamine reward system that gives us a “happy high.” This explains why we keep turning to them in spite of knowing that they can trigger insulin resistance, cause our cholesterol levels to spike and contribute to conditions like liver failure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Don’t worry, we’re not here to tell you to not comfort-eat; we know that’s the last thing you want to hear when you’re stressed. But can we convince you to swap those high-sugar, high-fatty quick fixes that will leave you feeling worse later for something more healthy that will do the job just as well? Maybe.
Here are 5 delicious foods that have been scientifically proven to cure stress and panic attacks that you’re better off eating.
Avocados get a very bad reputation for being high in fat. But what people don’t know is that these are “good” fats – the monounsaturated kind that’s great for your health. This, paired with the high levels of potassium in avocados is what gives this fruit its ability to lower your blood pressure levels and thus, beat stress.1
Each time you feel stressed, know that it’s an extension of a battle that’s being fought inside you. Blueberries are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients that basically fight in your defense. They reduce cellular oxidative stress caused by free radicals and thus help improve your body’s defense mechanism.
Research shows that wild blueberries were significantly helpful in reducing the development of systemic inflammation and prevent the progression of chronic hypertension in mice, whose genetic makeup is very similar to that of us humans.4
3. Dark Chocolate
Numerous studies proving the numerous benefits of eating dark chocolate has had chocolate lovers breathing a huge sigh of relief. But it’s really the cocoa in dark chocolate that makes this food so great for busting stress.
According to research, cocoa has a unique ability to lower levels of cortisol, the chief hormone responsible for putting you in panic mode! Plus it also has the ability to trigger the release of endorphins, feel-good hormones that instantly give your mood an uplifting boost! 5 6
Cocoa is loaded with antioxidants which once again, reduce cellular oxidative stress.7 This helps to relax the walls of your super tense blood vessels and lowers your blood pressure. This helps send out more oxygenated blood supply to the far ends of your body which further helps your body feel better.
The higher the levels of cocoa, the greater are our chances of benefiting from it. This is why researchers and nutritionists recommend us going for dark chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. However, remember – just because dark chocolate is better than certain other varieties, it still doesn’t call for eating an entire bar in one sitting. Try to limit yourself to no more than one block, maybe even two if you’re feeling really down in the dumps.
Everyone has heard that the main “offender” when it comes to the food coma during Thanksgiving is turkey.
This is because turkey contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid that boosts serotonin production in the brain.8 This is the main hormone that is popularly known for its ability to regulate hunger and sleep and bring on warm feelings of happiness. For this reason, eating turkey can help to calm our mind when we’re super stressed.9
A hundred grams of the “king” of nuts will give you about 5.78 mg of zinc, which covers more than half the daily requirement for the average adult man (which is 11 mg) and almost the entire daily recommended intake for the average adult woman (which is 8 mg).10 11
Zinc is one of the most important minerals our body needs to combat stress and stress-related illnesses. Studies have identified zinc as an important factor in decreasing depressive symptoms, as the vitamin can improve the response of antidepressants while reducing the side effects of anti-depression medication.12 13
|↑1, ↑3||Dreher, Mark L., and Adrienne J. Davenport. “Hass avocado composition and potential health effects.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53, no. 7 (2013): 738-750.|
|↑2||Stone, Michael S., Lisa Martyn, and Connie M. Weaver. “Potassium Intake, Bioavailability, Hypertension, and Glucose Control.” Nutrients 8, no. 7 (2016): 444.|
|↑4||Mykkänen, Otto T., Anne Huotari, Karl-Heinz Herzig, Thomas W. Dunlop, Hannu Mykkänen, and Pirkka V. Kirjavainen. “Wild blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) alleviate inflammation and hypertension associated with developing obesity in mice fed with a high-fat diet.” PLoS One 9, no. 12 (2014): e114790.|
|↑5||Nehlig, Astrid. “The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance.” British journal of clinical pharmacology 75, no. 3 (2013): 716-727.|
|↑6||Stoppler, Melissa Conrad, and W. C. Shiel. “Endorphins: Natural pain and stress fighters.” (2014).|
|↑7||Al Sunni, Ahmed, and Rabia Latif. “Effects of chocolate intake on perceived stress; a controlled clinical study.” International journal of health sciences 8, no. 4 (2014): 393.|
|↑8||The truth about turkey and tryptophan. Medical West.|
|↑9||Jenkins, Trisha A., Jason CD Nguyen, Kate E. Polglaze, and Paul P. Bertrand. “Influence of tryptophan and serotonin on mood and cognition with a possible role of the gut-brain axis.” Nutrients8, no. 1 (2016): 56.|
|↑10||Basic Report: 12087, Nuts, cashew nuts, raw. United States Department of Agriculture.|
|↑11||Zinc. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑12||Ghanem, Abd-Elaziz A., Essam M. Ali, Amal A. El-Bakary, Doaa A. El-Morsy, Sherif MH Elkanishi, El-Sayed Saleh, and Hanan El-Said. “Copper and Zinc levels in hair of both schizophrenic and depressed patients.” Journal of Forensic Medicine and Clinical Toxicology 17 (2009): 89-102.|
|↑13||Swardfager, Walter, Nathan Herrmann, Roger S. McIntyre, Graham Mazereeuw, Kyle Goldberger, Danielle S. Cha, Yael Schwartz, and Krista L. Lanctôt. “Potential roles of zinc in the pathophysiology and treatment of major depressive disorder.” Neuroscience & biobehavioral reviews 37, no. 5 (2013): 911-929.|