Weight Loss & Stress: Best Foods To Eat To Help Fight Stress
By Megan Roosevelt, RDN & Founder of HealthyGroceryGirl.com
One of the most popular New Years Resolutions is weight loss. A healthy weight can help reduce the risk of diet-related diseases as well as improve our quality of life. While there are many options available to achieve quick weight loss, these options can also be harmful to our health and lead to regaining the weight. A slow and steady approach to weight loss is often less appealing, however in most cases it is the better route for overall health, lifestyle change and long-term weight maintenance.
So how does stress specifically affect our weight and weight loss efforts? When we are stressed our body produces a hormone known as cortisol which can increase our insulin levels (another hormone) and long-story-short, it puts our body into a fat storing mode. Therefore, when we are chronically stressed this can make it difficult to lose or maintain a healthy weight even if you’re eating all your vegetables and getting to the gym on a daily basis.
We all experience stress and while no amount of stress if fun, it’s really the ongoing and chronic stress that can negatively affect our health. When we are stressed our body also uses more energy to help handle the state of stress we are experiencing.
There are a number of different healthy lifestyle habits that we can implement to help identify, reduce or manage stress. Try yoga, meditation, taking regular work breaks, listening to relaxing or happy music, talking with someone about your thoughts and feelings, journaling or going on a walk in fresh air. These are just a few of the many ways that we can help reduce and manage our stress!
In addition to lifestyle and habits, our diet plays a big role! It’s common to crave sugary foods to feel better when we are stressed. However, a poor diet can exacerbate symptoms of stress such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, digestive issues and trouble sleeping. Instead, a whole-foods diet is best during stressful times because real, whole, plant-based foods provide the body with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, energizing carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats.
Therefore, what we eat can nourish or hinder our health goals! Feeling stressed? Below are a few plant-based foods to start eating to help fight stress!
Green Leafy Vegetables
Dark leafy greens such as kale or spinach are rich in folate. Folate (A type of B vitamin) can help fuel the synthesis of serotonin and dopamine, which helps our body regulate our mood!
Berries, such as blueberries and blackberries, are high in antioxidants which can help keep your immune system strong! Stress can weaken the immune system and increase your chance of catching the cold or the flu.
You probably already know that chocolate can improve your mood. Chocolate produces a neurotransmitter called anandamide that temporarily blocks depression and pain. Chocolate also contains a few other compounds that support and prolong that “feel-good” feeling!
Seeds contain magnesium which act as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin, well-known for its role in helping to regulate our emotions. Studies have shown positive effects of magnesium related to anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Magnesium is also a natural muscle relaxant. If you find yourself feeling anxious, on-edge or moody try incorporating more magnesium-rich foods in your diet such as seeds, beans, nuts and dark leafy greens!
Stress induces a hypermetabolic state, essentially increasing your body’s metabolism and burning through energy quicker. This can result in the body burning through amino acids (protein) and muscle mass to support energy levels. It’s a good idea to be mindful of or even increase your protein intake during times of stress. Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and pistachios are a great protein packed snack. Also, a protein smoothie made with fruits, veggies and Orgain Protein Powder is another great choice!