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13 Alternatives to “Comfort” Foods When Stressed?

Feeling stressed? Do you tend to reach for comfort foods when you are under pressure? You might want to think again about the foods you eat when you are feeling stressed. 

Certain foods can truly help to combat stress. When you experience stress, whether it’s good stress or bad stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. When cortisol levels increase, cravings strike. 

For women, those cravings typically involve carbs, especially sweets. When we consume sweets and carbs, different enzymes are then released—and many of those can encourage the body to store fat. 

This means that many of the so-called comfort foods we reach for can be making us fat. The fat that is stored tends to be visceral fat, the kind that surrounds organs and causes many health problems, particularly because it becomes belly fat.

Here are 13 foods that can promote calming feelings, some may come as a surprise, but they will all help to combat cortisol and keep you from storing fat. You will find that these foods give you extra energy and help you focus throughout your day.

  • Asparagus: This long veggie is tasty, though it might be an acquired taste for some. Asparagus is high in folate, and will help you to stay calm and feel good. It’s great steamed or broiled, and you can eat as much as you want!

  • Avocados: This fruit is full of a compound called glutathione, which actually blocks the absorption of many fats that can cause free radicals to develop. Also rich in beta carotene, vitamin E and folate, this tasty fruit is great in recipes, salads or just eaten alone. Avocados contain plenty of healthy fats, and add a whole new dimension to many of your favourite foods.

  • Berries: All berries, and especially blueberries, contain high levels of antioxidants, which can improve your overall health. They contain tons of vitamin C, which is well known to combat stress and help reduce cortisol levels. Fresh or frozen, enjoy them plain, in salads, or in your favourite smoothie recipes.

  • Cashews: These healthy nuts can provide the crunch and salty relief that comes from many junk foods, without the ingredients that are not so good for you. Cashews are especially high in zinc, which can help control stress and make you feel great. Those with low zinc levels are at a higher risk for depression and anxiety, as well as other problems, so give yourself a great boost with a handful of this healthy nut. Great when plain, or add them to baked chicken recipes or salads for a nice touch.

  • Chamomile: You have probably heard of this calming plant as an ingredient in calming teas, but there are other ways to enjoy it, too. Supplements can help if you don’t like tea, but tea is the quickest way to get the calming effects of chamomile into your system. Try it at bedtime to help soothe your nerves and help you relax.

  • Chocolate: What? Didn’t we talk about avoiding sweets? Well, chocolate, especially dark varieties, can be helpful for reducing stress. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants, and can help control stress levels. Enjoy in small amounts, and use this when you are really craving the sweets, instead of eating junk food or baked goods. A little bit of chocolate can actually help to control your weight, too! It helps to reduce the cravings for sugar that many people experience.

  • Garlic: Full of great antioxidants, garlic is often recommended to cure ailments and help prevent aging. It’s all true. One of the primary compounds found in garlic and known to be very healthy is allicin, which helps prevent heart disease and cancer, and can help reduce stress, too. It boosts your immune system and can help increase concentration.

  • Grass-Fed Beef: Eating grass fed beef is very good for you—it is lean protein rich in iron, omega-3 fatty acids and it does not have any of the added antibiotics or hormones found in other beef forms that are not so healthy. It can lower inflammation in your body and help to control or prevent obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression and other problems. It can also help your body to fight stress.

  • Green Tea: Again, filled with antioxidants, green tea is especially good for you because it contains a certain amino acid known as theanine. This can help you protect yourself against stress and cortisol, and can even help prevent certain kinds of cancer. Green tea helps to control weight and help with concentration and mental focus. Enjoy this beverage twice a day for good health!

  • Oatmeal: This old fashioned comfort food is so good for you! Reach for this in the morning, and you will boost your body with complex carbohydrates that combat stress, help control your weight and increase mental focus and concentration. Oatmeal contains beta-glucan, which is a soluble fibre that makes you feel very satisfied and helps to control cravings. Make yourself a big batch on the weekend, of the steel-cut variety for best results, and enjoy it every morning for the rest of the week!

  • Oranges: Sweet and tasty, and loaded with vitamin C and minerals, oranges are one of the greatest comfort foods. Reach for a juicy orange and you will automatically be boosting your immune system and helping your body be better prepared to handle any kind of stress. Because they are so portable, you can keep one with you all the time, just in case you find yourself with a craving that needs attention.

  • Oysters: This seafood treat is loaded with zinc. A small plate of only six oysters contains more than 50% of the recommended daily allowance of zinc. This not only helps combat stress, but can help control anxiety and depression, too. Experiment with raw and steamed varieties, and different flavours, but most enjoy them cold with a small squeeze of lemon.

  • Walnuts: Another healthy nut that is loaded with omega-3s and zinc, walnuts also contain alpha-lineolic acid, which can help boost your memory. Some studies even suggest that walnuts can actually reverse some memory loss. Enjoy plain, in recipes or tossed in your favourite salads. 

  • Forget about reaching for fatty sweets and unhealthy carbs. Check out these options next time you have a craving, and you will not feel guilty—instead, you will feel healthy and energized, and ready to beat any stress that comes your way! 

     

    SOURCES: http://www.prevention.com/mind-body/emotional-health/13-healthy-foods-reduce-stress-and-depression?s=1; http://www.todaysdietitian.com/healthandnutrition/health/fight-stress-with-food.shtml; Image courtesy of tiverylucky / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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