You may be one of the millions of people who use chocolate, ice cream, or pizza to numb down their stressful feelings. Using food to destress tells the brain, “Now that you’ve made me pay attention and refuel with high energy food, you can relax.”
But there are other options besides eating to destress or decrease stress. You can choose exercise, yoga, meditation, sex, or a warm bath, all of which activate your brain’s pleasure centers and physically relieve stress. But we don’t always remember we have these other options when we’re in the middle of a stress flare-up that makes us reach for something to extinguish the fire.
Are there foods that can destress feelings? While there are no foods that will wipe away the causes of stress in your life, if you’ve been following the “Ten Rules for Healthy Eating,” you are in good shape, nutritionally, so when you run into a wall of stress you will be well fortified and have adequate reserves to deal with the crisis emotionally.
Here are a dozen things you can do to destress levels and conquer cravings:
• Wait ten minutes before giving in to a craving. If you can distract yourself for ten or fifteen minutes by answering e-mails, playing with the cat, helping your kids do homework, or running an errand, you may forget about it.
• Never go hungry. Hunger triggers intense cravings for sugar, so when hunger pangs strike, nibble on some protein foods or nuts.
• Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Many types of produce are full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that eliminate free radicals created by stress.
• Avoid burnt, barbecued, and fried foods. These foods burden your body with excessive amounts of damaging free radicals.
• Eat small, frequent meals instead of a few large ones. Doing so will help you maintain steady blood sugar levels.
• Drink two or three cups of green tea daily. Among its many health benefits green teas help destress feelings since they have theanine, a unique amino acid that tranquilizes the brain and helps to control cortisol levels.
• Turn off the TV. TV exposes you to endless numbers of food commercials that are designed to trigger cravings. Decrease the amount of TV you watch, or if you can’t, use the mute button to turn off the sound and walk out of the room during commercials.
• Eat foods with anti-stress vitamins and minerals daily. Make sure to include the B complex and vitamins A, C, and E as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and zinc to replenish nutrients depleted by daily stresses.
• Get enough sleep. Fatigue and sleep deprivation lead to carb cravings because carbs are a major source of energy needed when you feel wiped out. Instead, to relax before bedtime, eat a dairy food such as yogurt or steamed milk with some honey and cinnamon. Calcium is a natural tranquilizer, muscle relaxant, and sleep promoter.
• Exercise regularly. Exercise counteracts stress by releasing endorphins, the exercise hormone that produces good feelings.
• Drink a lot of water. Every system of the body depends on water to remove wastes, bring nutrients and oxygen to the cells, aid in digestion, and maintain normal metabolic rates. Drinking about ten cups daily will help you to destress.