Is stress getting the better of you? You can’t always control stress but you can change your diet to help keep it under control. These foods will help

Stress levels and a healthy diet are closely related. When we’re overwhelmed, we often forget to eat well and resort to using sugary, fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up. None of this is good for our health or waistlines. Chronic stress can also disrupt our sleep and interfere with our blood sugar levels. This can lead to increased hunger and overeating.

When we’re stressed, our body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which dates back to when our ancestors had to flee from prehistoric creatures in order to survive. Fight or flight is the body’s way of surviving. When fight or flight occurs, your brain instructs your cells to release potent hormones. You get a burst of adrenaline, which taps into stored energy so you can fight or flee. You also get a surge of the hormone cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy even though you haven’t used very many calories. This causes hunger and your body continues to pump out cortisol while you are stressed. So you can see why cortisol can promote weight gain and can also affect where you gain weight. Stress and elevated cortisol levels can cause fat deposits around the abdominal area.

It’s easy to say try to reduce your stress levels, but it’s not an easy thing to do. Some situations, like relationships or work stress, or caring for an elderly relative, can’t always be resolved. But with a little planning, it is possible to lose weight and keep the body calm and resilient to the stress we face each day. Believe it or not, some foods will help to calm you down and reduce your stress levels.

Here are some helpful ways to reduce your stress levels…

Stick to a regular eating pattern
Some people react to stress by eating, even if they’re not hungry. If you find yourself eating without thinking, snacking through the day, eating late at night, or generally eating way more than you used to, you might be stress eating. Plan ahead and stick to regular meals. Only include a snack if you are really hungry.

Stay hydrated
Stress management relies, in part, on staying hydrated. Hydration is important for keeping you healthy and combating fatigue. If you’re feeling lethargic and cranky, you may be less productive and more stressed about your day. Aim to drink one to two litres of water each day.

Switch to green tea
A large dose of caffeine causes a short-term spike in blood pressure. It can also lead to fluctuating energy levels too. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine, an amino acid that has a calming effect on the nervous system.

Eat dark chocolate (in moderation!)
Yes, quality dark chocolate is good for you! Incorporating some dark chocolate into your diet may also be helpful for easing anxiety and helping the body adapt to stressful situations. Rich in flavonols, antioxidants that may benefit brain function and boost mood.

Try yoghurt and kefir
If you feel under stress, yoghurt and kefir are great foods to include in your diet. The probiotics, or healthy bacteria, found in plain yogurt have been shown to improve mental health and brain function by inhibiting free radicals and neurotoxins, which can damage nerve tissue in the brain. In one study, anxious individuals who consumed probiotic yogurt daily were better able to cope with stress than those who consumed yoghurt without probiotics.

Go herbal
Herbal tea is a great option if you want a change from water.  Chamomile and lemon balm are particularly helpful for calming the body. Ideal in the evening, they may improve sleep patterns too.