If you’re not feeling stressed right now, you’re probably one of very few.
On top of life as we know being forever changed, we’re all just trying to juggle work, home, family, friends, bills and more — all while maintaining our sanity. Not to mention in the midst of the global pandemic, over 38 million people have filed for unemployment, causing an increase in anxiety and worry as people try to cling to their existing jobs, if they haven’t already been laid off.
On top of the psychological effects of being stressed, it also can increase the body’s need for certain nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin B, selenium, and magnesium. And while people only think of a few traditional ways to help manage stress — mindfulness and meditation, exercise and sleep — one strategy we often forget about is our diet. Food can be one of your biggest allies — or enemies — and it’s up to you to decide what side of the fence you’re on.
The amount and quality of nutrients you take in over time can impact the body’s neural circuits that control emotion, motivation, and mood. Stephanie Urrutia, a registered dietician at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and the senior culinary educator for The James Instructional Kitchen, shares tips on best foods to eat when you’re stressed.
Fruits and vegetables.
Pick a variety of rainbow colors with your produce. Green, red and yellow vegetables all have different vitamins you need, and the darker the color, the more rich in vitamins they tend to be. Green veggies like lettuce, zucchini and cucumbers; yellow foods like bananas and yellow peppers; We encourage people to try produce in different colors that they don’t normally buy. For example, try kiwi when it’s in season to introduce nutrients you may not normally get. We tend to go to the grocery store and always get the same things, but branching out and trying something new can help introduce some new healthy choices that you enjoy. You can also try cooking them in different ways to discover what you like, maybe you like how roasted broccoli tastes more than fresh broccoli.
Eggs are the gold standard for the highest quality protein you can get. In addition, look for immunity-boosting foods like those with vitamin C. Most people think of orange juice, which is great, but you may not know that fruits and veggies like strawberries and red peppers also have a lot of it. And if you go for something like oranges, eating the actual fruit will provide more benefits than juice because you’re also getting the fiber that will help keep you feeling full and satiated. It’s also good for your body and your digestive system.
Nuts, seeds and fatty fishes.
Fatty fishes like salmon or tuna, which contain a lot of polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. Those are great for heart health as well as stress reduction because of the Omega-3’s in them, which help lower stress hormone levels in the body. You also want to eat complex carbohydrates like whole grains and anything that is less refined and still has the bran on it, so when your body processes it, you stay full longer. It also takes longer for your body to process it all the way through, which helps combat diabetes and keeps your blood sugar steady for a longer period of time. It’s also good for your digestive tract to help fuel the good bacteria in your gut.
One beneficial food that people don’t always think of is dark chocolate. It contains high levels of magnesium, which is really good for your overall health, helps your muscles fire effectively and reduces stress.