Easing Stress with the Benefits of Good Food
Good healthy food can help you combat stress and increase your energy levels, enabling you to cope better with the ups and downs of everyday life.
For centuries, people have enjoyed eating good nutritious food and sharing a tasty meal with friends and family. It is now known that eating a well-balanced diet is essential for increasing your energy levels, helping to prevent stress. In Chinese medicine, poor eating habits negatively affect physical, mental and spiritual health, whereas a good diet increases feelings of well-being and energy by boosting the life force, Chi.
Enjoy your food
Eating your favourite foods can give you pleasure, increasing your levels of mood enhancing substances called endorphins. It’s not only the taste of food, however, that can reduce your stress levels; if your food is attractively presented, you are more likely to enjoy it, therefore eating it and digesting it more slowly. Eating in a relaxed atmosphere with good friends or close family can also calm you down after a stressful day and take your mind off all your worries.
How you eat your food can almost be as important as what you eat when it comes to promoting relaxation.
How Good Food Reduces Stress
Medical research has found that certain chemicals in food can help to reduce stress; bananas contain mood-enhancing substances such as tryptophan and vitamin B6, which is a natural antidepressant. They are also high in potassium, which helps to relieve feelings of tension.
Protein Rich Foods
Protein-rich foods such as fish, lentils, nuts and poultry increase dopamine levels in your body, which promote positive feelings of well-being that can counter stress.
Fruit and Veg
Citrus fruits, tomatoes and red peppers provide vitamin C, which makes anti-stress hormones and also helps to boost your immune system.
Eating Towards Less Stress
Food can help to reduce your stress levels but remember it’s not only what you eat that has a beneficial effect, but how and when you eat it too.
High Energy, low Effort
If your energy levels are low, you are likely to feel lethargic and it is important to increase your energy levels to enhance your mood. Eat a healthy breakfast such as porridge or muesli, as research has found that this can help to boost your energy levels for the rest of the day. Eating little and often during the day helps to keep you alert – choose five small meals a day or three main meals with two snacks in-between.
If you are prone to energy slumps, avoid eating bread or pasta and opt for a protein-rich meal. Save the carbohydrates for the evening when you don’t mind feeling sleepy as they can produce excessive amounts of serotonin, which can cause drowsiness.
Food as a Social Tool
Get the maximum out of your food by making mealtimes a social occasion, whether this involves eating as a family at home or going out for dinner with friends.
All in the Preparation
Mealtimes should be a time for relaxation. If you enjoy cooking, baking or grocery shopping, use this time to avoid thinking about all the stresses that are happening in your life. If you don’t like cooking, go out to eat or get a takeaway instead, but try to choose healthy options. If you work in an office, pop out for lunch with a colleague, even if this is just for half an hour, as this will help you to talk about and relieve pent-up tensions.
Control Food Cravings
When under stress, it’s common to crave certain foods. Most people seek comfort in carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta and cakes. This is because carbohydrates stimulate the body’s production of serotonin, which is associated with feelings of calm and reduced anxiety.
Slow Release Foods
Food cravings, however, aren’t the best solution to combating stress. In particular, fast releasing glucose-rich foods, such as sweets and chocolate, raise and then lower blood sugar very quickly, leaving you craving even more sugar. Complex carbohydrates, such as wholegrain bread, are a better option as they give you a sustained boost of energy.
Foods as an Aphrodisiac
Certain foods are believed to have aphrodisiac properties. If you eat them, their effects can lead to the ultimate stress-reliever, sex.
- Strawberries and champagne can completely banish your inhibitions, but this only works as an effective aphrodisiac if you can hold your drink.
- Ginger has been used as an aphrodisiac in China for 3000 years as it stimulates the circulation.
- Chocolate is full of phenylethylamine, a mood altering chemical that produces an emotional high similar to that felt while engaged in the act of coitus.
- Caviar is a potent aphrodisiac and should be served with some chilled vodka or champagne to send your passions racing.