Stress and comfort food go together like popcorn and caramel. Women in particular tend to seek comfort in the sweet embrace of carbohydrate-rich foods when we’re under stress, but how comforting are your “comfort foods” really?
Have you ever found your Zen at the bottom of a box of biscuits? Not likely. Once the sweet euphoria has worn off, self-loathing is quick to take the gap, intensifying your negative frame of mind. Refined carbohydrates and rich, creamy foods also tend to cause bloating and may make you feel queasy. Fortunately there are foods that are a real lifeline when you’re strung out. They won’t provide a quick “high,” but they will nourish your body and give you strength to face the day. All hail the real comfort foods:
Rich, creamy and satisfying, this fruit is almost too good to be good for you – yet it is. Packed with stress-busting potassium, folate and B-vitamins, the humble avo is like that calm friend whose presence soothes your frayed nerves. Stick to one serving (about a quarter of an avo) at a time to keep the kilojoule count within reasonable limits. Spread it on lightly toasted, low-GI bread for a balanced, filling meal.
Cashews are a great source of zinc, a lack of which is associated with depression and anxiety. The texture and crunch of cashews also helps relieve tension, and they’re high in fat so they’ll keep hunger and crazy cravings at bay. Keep a packet in your handbag for a calming snack when you’re on the go. Meat, seafood and dairy are also rich in zinc.
It might not be as trendy as a latte, but chamomile has calming properties that are far more beneficial when you’re feeling anxious. Apigenin is the flavonoid responsible for chamomile’s naturally sedating effect. It helps reduce stress levels and promotes relaxation, making it a great choice when you need soothing.
Research claiming that dark chocolate is good for us has been well publicised – and very well received. Chocolate’s creamy texture and pleasing taste makes it the ultimate feel-good food. It’s also loaded with magnesium, manganese, iron, potassium, zinc and antioxidants, which induce a sense of general wellbeing. Moderation is however key – choose quality chocolate with a cocoa content between 70 and 85 percent, and stick to a daily serving of one or two blocks.
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon keep the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin from spiking when you’re anxious. Other excellent sources of omega 3 are walnuts, flaxseeds and sardines.