With the stress of daily life, some of us may reach for comfort foods that are often less healthy. Yes, these comfort foods may offer some instant relief, but will also cause fluctuations in blood sugar and stress hormones that eventually lead to new stresses to the body. During stressful times, eating well is more important than ever; a healthier diet may actually offer some relief. Try incorporating the following stress-busting diet measures to help deal with stress.
1. Cook salmon twice a week
Most of us are familiar with DHA and EPA in brain functions and heart health management. Similarly, salmon may be beneficial in dealing with stress and anxiety as well. A recent 2018 scientific review of 19 published studies concluded that omega 3 supplementation, at 2,000 mg a day, benefited most in dealing with anxiety disorders. This level of intake is equivalent to eating 2 servings of fatty fish (like wild salmon) a week.
Please note that this benefit cannot be duplicated from plant-based foods such as walnuts and flaxseeds that also contain omega 3 fatty acids. Reason being, plant based food sources do not contain DHA or EPA, only other forms of omega 3’s.
2. Consider making turmeric rice for dinner
Turmeric is known for detoxification; and it may also help deal with stress. The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. Curcumin may help by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress often associated with people experiencing anxiety and depression. A 2014 study found that curcumin can boost DHA in the brain and prevent anxiety disorders.
Only a small amount of turmeric is needed for making turmeric rice: Simply add ½ tsp of turmeric in your rice cooker for every 2 cups of white rice.
3. Don’t be afraid of chocolate
When in stress, some of us crave for chocolate. And there’s perhaps a scientific reason to explain why our body seems to feel calm and satisfied after eating chocolate. A 2014 study found that university medical students who ate only 40 g of chocolate per day (both milk and dark chocolate) for two weeks felt less stressed. A recent 2018 review also identified a few mood-enhancing nutrients in cocoa beans and found that chocolate may improve mood in general. So if you crave for a piece of chocolate, go ahead and eat a small piece. Remember to choose at least 70 percent cocoa for a higher cocoa antioxidant content.
4. Carry nuts with you all the time
Choosing nuts as your go-to snack not only fulfills protein needs, but it can also be a stress-busting measure. In general, stress depletes our body’s B vitamin storage, and snacking on nuts help to replenish them. B vitamins handle out body’s fight-or-flight stress response. In addition, nuts are good sources of other stress-busting nutrients such as magnesium and selenium. Almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts are particularly high in magnesium. For instance, 1-ounce of cashews (about 18 pieces) provides ~80 mg of magnesium, that’s about ⅕ of what you need in a day. Brazil nuts, on the other hand, are extremely high in another anti-stress nutrient selenium. Just two pieces of Brazil nuts can provide all you need in a day! Just use a small tin to carry your nutty snacks and keep your stress at bay.
Gloria Tsang - Registered Dietitian