Stress can make us crave junk food and increase our levels of fat-promoting stress hormones that lead to weight gain around the tummy, hips and thighs, says Charlotte Watts, author of The De-Stress Effect. These ten foods are proven to relieve stress
When you’re under stress, sleep may suffer and you can find yourself waking with a start in the early hours – a common high stress symptom. Celery contains tryptophan which helps the body create the brain chemical serotonin, essential to sustaining a positive mood and sound sleep. A few stalks with some sugar-free peanut butter as a bedtime snack can help sleep quality and keep your blood sugar levels constant throughout the night to prevent sudden night-time waking.
Long-term stress affects immunity, which is why you might catch any bug going when the pressure is on. Garlic contains potent antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties that help support an immune system lowered by stress and it can also help reduce tissue and joint inflammation which increases in the face of stress. Crush two cloves and add it to a vegetable medley of peppers, tomatoes and onions with some fresh oregano, lemon and a drizzle of olive oil and roast for 20 minutes and serve with grilled salmon or chicken breast.
3. Cabbage (and it’s cousins)
Nutrient super-rich cabbage – along with other cruciferous vegetabls such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, collards, pak choi, horseradish and mustard leaves – contains sulphur compounds called glucosinolates that help our livers detoxify stress hormones. Eating more cruciferous vegetables can also help PMS sufferers as they can help fight a stress-related condition known as ‘oestrogen dominance’ that may be behind pre-period mood changes. Eat them cooked though – steamed or sauted in some olive or coconut oil – as raw they can interfere with thyroid function which may be compromised when you’re under stress.
If chronic stress is leaving you exhausted, licorice may help the function of your adrenal glands. These are two small kidney shaped glands that sit above your kidneys that make stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin to help get you through those deadlines and challenges. But their ability to do pump out those hormones is finite and when your adrenals become exhausted, so do you. Try replacing coffee (an adrenal gland depletor) with licorice tea for adrenal support during stressful times (it’s fabulously stimulating, so not after 2pm) and try quality licorice from health food stores as an occasional sweet treat.
You may know chamomile as a pre-bed soother, which it does by raising the amino acid glycine to help calm a stressed, heightened nervous system. But is also increases levels of a substance called hippuric acid that helps fight infection, super-important when you’re stressed. Drinking chamomile tea after meals may also help regulate digestive issues like stomach cramps and constipation – common symptoms for those with stress-related Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).