There are lots of comfort foods that can make you feel better when stressed. But let’s be honest with ourselves, not all of them are good for us. There have never been depressed, anxious and unmotived people since World War II. Unsurprisingly these ailments often go together with irritable bowel syndrome and asthma. Our bowels and lungs are the separation between the inside of our bodies and the outside world. After 1944 lots of changes have happened in our food chain. Fluoride has been added to water, animal fats were demonized and replaced with vegetable oils of corn, soy and canola. Meat and eggs were replaced with carbohydrates from refined grains and soy.
Our nutrient-rich and dense food in animal fats that fed our brain and kept mental illness at bay was replaced by sugars and vegetable oils. Let’s face it, comfort foods like cookies and chips are just cheating our brain. Taking in more sugar and unhealthy fat will make us crave more and in the end, leave us feel guilty and sick. They kill our motivation and feed anxiety.
There are lots of nutrient rich foods which contain necessary minerals and vitamins to keep stress and anxiety at bay. What are those healthy comfort foods that are good for fighting off stress and lowering anxiety without taxing our health?
Fats provide energy to the body and the brain and are essential to absorb fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and K. They are essential parts of the building membranes of the brain cells.
Did you know that 60% of the brain is made up of fats? There are three kinds of fats required for a healthy mental status:
What else does our brain need?
It is about the most important mineral in our body. It is best known for its relaxing effect on muscles. A good indication of magnesium deficit, are tensed muscles or restless legs at night. Coffee and alcohol, cookies, pasta and pastries all lower magnesium as well as certain medications.
Foods: dark chocolade, avocado, nuts, legumes, tofu, seeds, whole grains, fatty fish, bananas, leafy greans
It is essential for a healthy skin but is a mood regulator as well. Our bodies don’t store zinc so we need our daily dosage to stay happy and relaxed.
Foods: Meat, shellfish (oysters!), legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, eggs, whole grains
They are essential for nerve functioning and healthy brain cells. They are natural painkillers and mood boosters.
Foods: whole grains, meat and fish, eggs, milk, cheese, legumes, seeds, nuts, dark, leafy vegetables
Human beings cannot synthesize vitamin C and therefore we are obliged to eat our daily fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C abolishes the release of cortisol when stressed. Therefore it is an essential vitamin in stress management!
Foods: broccoli, cantaloupe, cauliflower, kale, kiwi, oranges, papaya, peppers, sweet potatoe, tomatoes, …
“Without folate,” says Massachusetts psychiatrist Emily Deans, “you can’t send the signals for regeneration and repair in the brain, which is why one symptom of low folate is depression, and long-term lack of folate can cause dementia.”
We need folate to produce dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrin, all neurotransmitters that regulate our mood.
Foods: spinach, liver, asparagus, brussels sprouts, romain lettuce, dark green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, peas, seafood, eggs, dairy, meat, poultry, …
Each time we breath, oxidative stress is created. Anti-oxidants eliminate this excessive stress and toxic byproduct in our body. Oxidative stress in the brain appears to lead to psychological disturbances and nervous system impairments.
“Several studies have shown that there is a link between psychological stress and intracellular oxidative stress.”, according to Marie-Anne Milesi from Seppic, France. and “Researchers found that the supplement (an antioxidant) decreased the signs and symptoms of perceived stress and fatigue in healthy volunteers.”
Foods: dark chocolate, pecans, all berries, artichokes, kale, …
Amino Acids, precursors of serotonin and dopamine
Research has shown that tryptophan, the sole precursor of serotonin, is an important factor in mood, cognition and behavior. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and must be supplied by food. 95% of serotonin is found in the gastrointestinal tract. However we know today that our gut is our second brain, also called the enteric nervous system. This nervous system is not able to calculate or read but it can control your emotions. It suffices to have an irritated gut to trigger this enteric nervous system. This explains the connection between Irritable Bowel Disease and depression and anxiety. Dopamine, another mood booster, increases after ingestion of tryptophan. Without dopamine, we lose focus and tend to procrastinate.
Food: turkey and chicken
Pre- and probiotics
Our gut is colonised with trillions of healthy (and unhealthy) bacteria. The composition changes with your diet. While there is still much to research, gut bacteria affect the immune system, the HPA axis and as a consequence the circulating levels of cytokines. These will send signals via the nervus vagus – the longest nerve of our autonomous nervous system – to the brain. Pre- and probiotics feed these bacteria.
Food: garlic, onion, leeks, apples, flaxseeds, seaweed, fermented food, yoghurt, kimchi, …
they boost serotonin levels and give us a calming and soothing feeling. They are an ideal supply of long lasting energy that cut the envy to grab junk food that leave us feel worse after all. Steady blood sugar levels guard us of snacking and emotional rollercoasters.
Foods: whole wheat, brown and wild rice, potatoes, quinoa, legumes, corn
If you struggle with stress and don’t know where to start, we got you. Use this link to schedule a talk with me. Looking forward connecting with you soon.
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