Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Rest assured that what you eat can help you handle stress better and help with weight loss.
When you’re stressed out, you might turn to traditional ‘comfort’ foods to help you feel better – like take-out, junk food, carbs, sweets, and alcohol.
Let’s face it – we’ve all found comfort in what we eat when stress hits us hard. However, there are some foods that will help you deal with your stress rather than relying on junk food. And these foods actually taste great, too!
When you turn to junk food, yes you can feel better temporarily. However, in the long run, you’ll feel worse and you’ll gain weight. When your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you start to feel less energetic, more lethargic, and in some cases less able to concentrate and focus. All of this leads to even more stress and more weight gain.
Foods the Fight Stress and Help with Weight Loss
If you’ve been feeling more stressed out than usual lately, it’s important to know which foods will help you through this stressful time. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet which includes a moderate amount of each of the different food groups.
Filling up on foods such as fresh fruits, leafy vegetables, healthy fats and proteins are basic staples of a diet that best ensures your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to fight both physical and mental health challenges and help you maintain a healthy weight.
When it comes foods that help fight stress and weight gain, some have a range of great properties that help the body. Choosing these stress-busting foods will help to calm your mind naturally and nutritiously, rather than providing a temporary fix with high sugar, high refined flour junk food. The below stress-busting foods ultimately lead to weight loss as well.
Some Stress-Fighting Foods for Weight Loss
Avocado – Avocados can be enjoyed any time of day, whether you enjoy them raw, made into sauces, dressings and dips, or in a smoothie. These nutrient-dense fruits have properties to help your body become more stress-proof. They are high in glutathione and this antioxidant specifically blocks intestinal absorption of chemicals that cause oxidative damage. Avocados contain vitamin E, folate, and beta-carotene and this boosts their stress-busting properties. Just be careful with portion control when eating avocado — they are high in fat. I recommend about 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado as a serving. You can squeeze some lemon or lime juice on unused avocado and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge. They will not turn brown this way and will last more than a day in the fridge.
Blueberries – Swapping in blueberries (or other berries such as raspberries) instead of reaching for junk foods high in vegetable oils and refined flour will help you deal with your stress. Berries are a superfood that will help you reach a higher level of calm. Blueberries have some of the highest levels of antioxidants like anthocyanins which means this berry has been linked to sharper cognition, better focus, and a clearer mind – all of which can help you to better deal with stress. I recommend pairing berries with some protein like a high-quality cheddar cheese or add them to some cottage cheese.
Chamomile Tea – Teas can offer a huge boost to helping you deal with stress. Chamomile tea in particular helps you alleviate stress without the negative effects other beverages offer — those high-energy drinks that can leave you feeling worse in the end due to their high levels of caffeine. On the other hand, chamomile tea has long been used as a natural bedtime soother and has also been used in clinical trials which determined that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Mother nature for the win!
Chocolate – Moderate amounts of high-quality dark chocolate (above 60% cacao content) has been shown to help our moods. People usually think of chocolate as unhealthy but studies show that eating dark chocolate can actually make you happier. Just watch your portions. A couple of squares of dark chocolate are all you need to start to feel more calm. Dark chocolate works best as a de-stressor when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Dark chocolate contains flavonols and polyphenols which are very important antioxidants that help lower stress. So, yes, some good quality chocolate CAN help you lose weight!
Beef – Grass-fed beef can help you feel more calm, too. Grass-fed beef, rather than beef from cows fed corn, soy, and grains, has a huge range of antioxidants, including betacarotene and vitamins C and E. These nutrients can help your body fight stress and anxiety. Grass-beef can be more expensive than conventional beef but grass-fed is usually a little lower in fat, has a better amino acid profile and is higher in the healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Green Leafy Vegetables – Mom always said to eat your greens and she is right! Green leafy veggies help you combat stress because they are full of nutrients and antioxidants that help fight off disease. They also leave your body feeling healthier and more energized. Dark leafy greens like spinach are especially good for you since they are rich in folate and this helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Making leafy greens a part of your diet will help you to feel happier and less stressed out overall.
Putting Together Your Plan
Planning your meals is key to not only staying healthy, it also helps you reduce stress because you can choose healthier foods ahead of time that help boost your mood. Knowing you have the foods your body needs to feel your best will help you reduce the likelihood of reaching for junk food that gives you a quick energy spike but then leaves you feeling terrible later. Incorporating the above foods into your diet will help you feel less worried and will help you get control over your emotions and fears.
Junk food made with polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn oil and foods high in refined flour may help you feel better temporarily, but in the end, they don’t help you reduce your overall stress and they lead to weight gain.
Having stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, or a fruit smoothie with avocado, berries and leafy greens can help you to feel better short and long term when it comes to stress. Eat a balanced diet to help you deal with everyday stressors and you’ll go a long way towards helping your body stay healthy and ready to handle what happens in your life.
Planning your meals ahead of time is a good way to stay on track and keep the foods in your kitchen that help you when the stress hits. Make the majority of your meals include a balanced amount of lean protein, leafy green vegetables, healthy fats and carbs. This will make you feel healthier overall and it will improve your mental health and stress levels, too.
A good example of a healthy, stress-busting menu is:
Breakfast: Smoothie with a high-quality protein powder, 1% milk, a splash of oj, some avocado, cocoa powder, and blueberries
Mid-morning snack: Cottage cheese (with no thickeners like gums or carrageenan) with some cacao nibs and raspberries
Lunch: A small roasted sweet potato with 1/2 teaspoon of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon, along with an arugula salad topped with salmon and sliced strawberries with an avocado and lemon vinaigrette
Afternoon snack: 2 squares of dark chocolate (60% or higher cacao content)
Dinner: 5 oz grass-fed beef burger cooked under the broiler with 1/2 cup of wild rice, and 1 cup of sauteed zucchini noodles and cherry tomatoes cooked in 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and seasoned with Italian seasonings
Before bed: Chamomile tea
This menu will give you some ideas on how to combat your stress with good food so that weight loss is easier. You can tweak ingredients to suit your tastes. Just remember to practice portion control when eating chocolate — a little goes a long way. Fill yourself up with foods that help your body overcome the stress in life. You’ll feel better both mentally and physically.
Have you noticed how your food affects your stress levels and your weight?
Let me know in the comments after you swap in some of these stress-busting foods and how they help you.