Are you feeling overwhelmed, tired or cranky? When feeling down, it can be tempting to reach for chips, mac and cheese or sweet treats. Unfortunately, most comfort foods are loaded with saturated fat, sugar and artificial ingredients. And once the sweet taste fades away, sugar crashes and increased cortisol levels will often leave you feeling even worse.
When you experience any type of stress, your body’s natural reaction is to release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol causes food cravings, and according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, women tend to crave refined carbohydrates and “sweet” foods. Prolonged stress and increased levels of cortisol increase the production of fat cells and slow metabolic rate. Elevated cortisol also increases appetite, so we eat more and we gain weight as a result.
So what can you do? Here are 6 essential nutrients to help manage your stress levels:
B6 vitamins produce serotonin which calms our nervous system. Foods to choose: legumes, tuna, chickpeas, avocados and baked potatoes with the skin.
B12 vitamins help create GABA, which calms us. Foods to choose: Greek yogurt, clams, chicken, salmon and sardines.
Folate creates dopamine to help you relax and create feelings of pleasure.Foods to choose: asparagus, Brazil nuts, oatmeal, lentils, avocados and leafy greens.
Magnesium also stimulates dopamine production. Foods to choose: almonds, spinach, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, amaranth and tofu.
Vitamin C boosts your immune system & fights stress causing free radicals. Foods to choose: berries, oranges, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and green and red peppers.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids help regulate dopamine and serotonin, calming the mind and boosting brain function. Foods to choose: salmon, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed, flax oil, and chia seeds and edamame.
So, what does all of this mean? A meal of chicken, leafy greens and a baked potato could actually be your new comfort meal, one that brings relaxation and happiness. If you want dessert, finish your meal with a square or two of dark chocolate which has stress fighting antioxidants, too!
Think before you eat, and you’ll feel better without sugar crashes and increased cortisol levels.