To overcome the winter and the holiday season without stress and without eating excessively, some foods can be helpful, in particular the ten foods listed by nutritionists of Washington University: these foods are a good aid for your health because they help to rest better and fight anxiety that causes eating too much and bad, especially when it's time to celebrate.
“Some foods appear to soothe us; others fight the inflammation that comes with stress,” said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. “Stress eating, however, can be a problem this time of year. During stressful periods, there is the mental response of ‘I need to do something.’ And that ‘something,’ for some of us, is eating as much as we can as fast as we can. We have learned. ‘If I eat, I can avoid’ or ‘I can energize.’ The problem is, of course, once people do it, they realize it didn’t help.”
Diekman encourages to eat a healthy meal every three to four hours to maintain healthy blood-sugar levels. She also reminds that rest is very important: “Lack of sleep is a huge trigger for inflammation as well as overeating. If you don’t get a minimum of five hours a night, there is a higher probability you will overeat.”
Here are 10 foods to help fight stress during the holidays
These foods give you a greater sense of satiety, need to be chewed for a longer time, maintain the correct blood sugar levels or lower blood sugar, have anti-inflammatory effects and increase the levels of serotonin that has proven soothing effects. These foods also have beneficial effects on brain function. Finally, hot drinks facilitate sleep.
1) Whole grains
Diekman said whole grains, such as oatmeal, whole-grain breakfast cereal and breads offer a range of stress-busting benefits. “They help you feel full longer, require chewing, which releases anxiety, and maintain blood sugar levels,” said Diekman. “Starting the day with oatmeal is one way to fuel the body, warm the core and provide nutrients that keep the body strong.” Whole grains also boast serotonin, which is known for its calming effect.
Diekman said stress-eaters should stock a fridge full of crunchy veggies. Just the act of chewing vegetables like carrots and celery may relieve tension. “Raw vegetables generate lots of crunch, which is an aid to alleviating anxiety and prevents jaw clenching,” Diekman said.
3) Vitamin C-rich foods
Foods loaded with Vitamin C help fight inflammation and keep the immune system strong. “Research shows foods with flavonoids help our bodies fight stress. What the research does not show, though, is that they prevent stress,” Diekman said. “So it’s important for people to realize this isn’t about finding a capsule that has their flavonoids. It’s about getting these whole foods that keep the immune system functioning on a normal keel. So grab some oranges, blueberries, strawberries or even some spinach.”
Nuts, especially walnuts, almonds and pistachios, contain healthful fats, which can help the body fight stress-induced inflammation. Unfortunately, the unhealthy fats found in comfort foods such as french fries and bacon don’t have the same benefits. “A high-fat meal can put you to sleep,” Diekman said.
5) Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate, the healthiest variety of chocolate, both increases serotonin and reduces cortisol, the inflammation-inducing hormone triggered by stress. “Just remember to choose portions wisely,” Diekman said.
6) Oily fish
Oily fish can block and, in some cases, counteract stress biomarkers, Diekman said. “Oily fish like tuna, salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help fight inflammation, a common result of stress, and they have a good variety of vitamins that keep the body strong,” said Diekman. “And oily fish also seems to enhance the brain’s functioning power.”
Super-food avocados are loaded with potassium, which can lower blood pressure. “They can help keep the balance in muscle activity and fluid balance,” Diekman said. “In general, plant foods are just packed with compounds beyond the vitamins and minerals that play a huge role in the overall health of the body.”
8) Hot tea
Studies show tea’s plant compounds help us relax. But so does its warmth, Diekman said. “When we drink something cold, it causes the body to raise its core temperature; the opposite happens when we drink something really hot. But warm drinks appear to be calming to the body,” Diekman said.
9) Warm milk
Like a cup of hot tea, warm milk is soothing. Milk also boasts tryptophan, a key ingredient in making serotonin. “The milk sugars, like all carbohydrates, act on serotonin in the brain,” Diekman said. “Enjoy the milk with a graham cracker or another complex carbohydrate to get more glucose.”
Think you can only get dehydrated in the summer? Think again. “You may not be sweating in the winter, but you are still losing fluids from the surface of the skin. That’s why your skin gets so dry,” said Diekman. “Hydration is essential to fighting stress since fluids keep fuel circulating in the body and the right balance of the electrolytes helps muscles and nerves perform their best.”