Many of us tend to eat during times of high stress or anxiety, thinking that the food will make them feel better. However usually the foods consumed are junky, processed, and unhealthy, leading to elevated insulin levels, weight gain, tiredness and feelings of regret.
According to the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, stressful times cause cortisol levels to increase which promotes food cravings. Foods that are high on the craving list typically are high in sugar or carbs, such as chips, candies, sodas, and cakes. Although these foods may be more appealing during stressful times, they can increase levels of anxiety or stress. Luckily there are three tasty foods that you would never guess could help relieve stress. All of these foods are extremely tasty, easy to find, and most importantly, have health benefits as well.
First on the list, one of many people’s favorite foods- chocolate!. A numbers of recent studies proved that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can help to relieve stress. Chocolate is known to increase levels of serotonin and endorphins into the brain. These chemical neurotransmitters are responsible for mood changes and social behavior. Endorphins are chemicals that make us feel good. Serotonin is responsible for social behavior and mood changes. Because chocolate increases levels of these chemicals, when eating it,one will feel more relaxed and less stressed out. According to a study in Psychology Today, pregnant women who consume chocolate during their pregnancy give birth to babies who maintain low-stress levels as they get older. Magnesium is a key ingredient in most chocolate and is known to calm anxiety or nervousness. Chocolate has a very high concentration of magnesium, with about 180 mg of magnesium in a full-size chocolate bar. There happens to be countless other health benefits, such as reduced cholesterol levels and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Sadly, eating a normal milk chocolate bar doesn’t have as many of the positive effects that chocolate with higher levels of cocoa do. But this definitely doesn’t mean having two full-size chocolate bars a day is healthy. Keeping the amount of chocolate you eat in moderation is the best thing to do as it can lead to weight gain.
The second food on the list may not be a food that everyone loves, but with the right toppings, oatmeal is always delicious! Oatmeal is a great breakfast or snack option, leaving you filled up and not craving other foods for some time after eating it because it is high in fiber. Oatmeal is generally easy to make and can be eaten with many toppings: honey, cinnamon, or fruits. Just like in chocolate, oatmeal raises levels of serotonin which produces a feeling of calmness in the body. In addition, oatmeal contains B vitamins and magnesium that keep you more alert throughout the day. Do yourself a favor and try to start eating oatmeal a few times a week for breakfast. Trust me, it will be your new favorite thing.
Ever wonder why you are given pretzels on planes as a snack? For people who develop anxiety on planes, having a bag of this salty snack may help reduce stress levels and calm down. Pretzels eaten alone, with dips, or my personal favorite, drenched with chocolate, are all delicious. The slight raise in sodium that pretzels contain will ease your mind and body, allowing you to relax. It also raises levels of serotonin and contains high levels of fiber. Serotonin additionally improves memory and sleep. Pretzels are also low-fat, contain zinc, folate and is high in vitamins. But look out for the pretzels you are buying to make sure they are not too high in sodium. Pretzels with less than 27 mg of salt or whole wheat pretzels are usually better for your health.
Make sure to try these foods when you are under stress or pressure instead of eating the foods you normally crave!