Best Food Choices to Beat Stress

Best Food Choices to Beat Stress

When your stress is in overdrive, you might want to reach for a pint of ice cream or a bag of potato chips. While comfort foods definitely feel good in the moment, these choices are often high in fat, sugar and total carbohydrates.

“Foods like these can become an unhealthy crutch,” said Julie Husmann, registered dietitian (RD) and manager, Holland Hospital Healthy Life programs, “making you feel sluggish or worse in the long run.”

So what foods should you opt for when you’re stressed? With the right choices, you don’t have to forgo snacking. Here are some suggestions for satisfying your hunger and reducing your stress:

  • Complex Carbohydrates: Choose complex, slowly digested carbohydrates to keep your serotonin (your feel good” hormone) levels balanced. What to eat: Choose Triscuit crackers topped with roasted red pepper hummus, salmon or tuna.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids may protect against damage caused by stress. And studies demonstrate that omega-3s may help improve stress-related disorders, like anxiety and depression. What to eat: If you’re feeling stressed, load up on fatty fish like salmon and tuna.

  • Folate: In some studies, not getting enough folate has been linked to depression. Scientists theorize this might be because folate has a role in biochemical reactions in the brain. What to eat: Reach for green veggies. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and asparagus are all great sources of folate.

  • B Vitamins: Research shows that B vitamins help regulate your nerves and brain cells, which can play a part in reducing stress. What to eat: Avocados are high in vitamin B6. As a bonus, they’re also a good source of potassium, which supports strong muscles and a healthy heart. Other good sources include nuts, dried beans and lentils, whole grains, dark-green leafy vegetables, fish and shellfish, and fat-free and low-fat dairy products.

  • Tryptophan: Tryptophan is known for its sleepy effects and for increasing serotonin levels. Adding it to your diet could help you get longer bouts of much-needed sleep. What to eat: If stress is keeping you up at night, reach for turkey. You can also try a handful of pumpkin seeds.

  • Dark Chocolate: A good source of magnesium, dark chocolate activates brain receptors that promote a calming, soothing sensation, helping to boost mood and ease stress. “Dark chocolate can also satisfy your sweet tooth,” Husmann said. When choosing a variety, aim for 70% cocoa or more, and remember, dark chocolate still contains added sugars and high amounts of fat, so a small serving of one to two squares is ideal.”

Looking to improve your diet or fitness level? Hoping to realize a new personal wellness goal? Beyond helping you get well, Holland Hospital encourages you to stay well with our Healthy Life Programs. Learn more about our healthy eating, fitness and lifestyle programs and classes Back  
  • Julie Husmann, MSM, RD, CDE

    Julie Husmann, MSM, RD, CDE

    Julie Husmann is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who guides people living with diabetes in their disease management. She has a passion for inspiring people to make healthy lifestyle changes. Julie grew up in Wisconsin and has lived in West Michigan for the past 13 years. She enjoys skiing in Utah and walking and biking in West Michigan with her husband.

    Julie Husmann, MSM, RD, CDE

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