Stressing out? You’re not alone; in fact, stress affects all of us. Over the long term, it can increase inflammation in your body and mess with your mood, sleep, eating habits and overall well-being.
Fortunately, there are some small things you can do that might help. Getting outside, moving your body, taking a screen break, soaking in a bath and using essential oils may help reduce stress. There are also some foods that can aggravate or help relieve stress. Here are some simple food swaps you can make that may help you feel a little bit calmer.
1. Swap: White bread for oatmeal
Carbs are good for your body and your brain. They help you make the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. But not all carbohydrates are created equal. Whole grains contain fiber, and your body digests them more slowly to avoid blood sugar peaks and lows. Plus, oatmeal is a cozy, comforting breakfast. Try it topped with bananas and chocolate.
2. Swap: Sausage for salmon
This isn’t a perfect swap if you’re craving meaty pizza or a sandwich with peppers and onions. But the protein you choose to put on your plate is important. Salmon contains omega-3 fats, which emerging research shows may help reduce anxiety. Processed meats have added preservatives, including sodium, which isn’t great for your blood pressure.
3. Swap: A granola bar for nuts
Choosing smarter snacks may help keep your stress at bay. Granola bars sound healthy, but many are made with lots of added sugar. Nuts deliver healthy fats, fiber and protein, which means your snack will have staying power (read: you’re not hungry again in an hour). Plus, nuts have B vitamins, which can get depleted when we’re stressed.
4. Swap: Gummy candy for dark chocolate
Many of us reach for sweets when we’re stressed. Sugary candy is tasty but can backfire as a stress-relieving snack due to blood sugar swings. But dark chocolate can actually be good for your stress levels, according to research.
5. Swap: Wine for herbal tea
Even though alcohol may temporarily relieve some stress, it’s a depressant that can increase anxiety. A more relaxing drink choice? Herbal tea. Tea drinkers have lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free — and caffeine can exacerbate anxiety in some people and interfere with sleep. A mug of chamomile may not be as sexy as a big glass of red wine, but your stress levels may decrease.
6. Swap: Cottage cheese for yogurt
Both of these high-protein foods are great snack choices. But when it comes to stress, yogurt may have a leg up thanks to probiotics, the good-for-your-gut bacteria. Your gut produces 50% of your body’s dopamine and 95% of its serotonin — both mood-boosting chemicals. We’re still learning more about how gut health impacts mood, but there’s some evidence that probiotics can help you feel better. Yogurt is a natural source of probiotics, so eat up. Including other probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha in your diet can’t hurt either.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)
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