Weight Loss Wednesdays: Eating for Stress Reduction

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There are only 17 more shopping days until Christmas and just over three weeks until 2016 comes to a resounding close. What else is on your calendar?  Two weeks until your in-laws fly in and you spend the rest of the year on the pull-out couch? Ten days until your last final? Seven days until you turn in your semester-long research project that is a third of your final grade? Maybe you’re a teacher and you only have one week left to grade papers and submit all your grades? Or less than 24 hours until the deadline for your latest article or blog post and you have writer’s block that won’t quit. Whatever your work load or stress level may be, I think we can all agree that the holidays are a stressful time for anyone over the age of ten and sometimes feels like more of a chore than it should.

      Chances are that at some point during your life, you have experienced this holiday stress and wished for a way to force yourself to unclench, unwind and take a big, easy breath. Nutrition may just be the key. I can’t promise that it’ll write your term paper for you or magically make a visit with critical in-laws blissful, but I can say that eating with stress-reduction in mind doesn’t have to suck and definitely packs more of a satisfying punch than anything you might get from a vending machine or gas station candy aisle.  Here’s a list of a few foods to try and why you should care:

1)     Green Leafy Vegetables:  

  Try spinach, kale, collards or swiss chard

Try spinach, kale, collards or swiss chard

Green leafies, such as spinach, kale and collard greens are chock full of folate, which is involved in the production of dopamine, a brain chemical that helps you stay calm (especially helpful for those extra-long check out lines at Macy’s).

2)     Complex carbohydrates:

  Oatmeal, quinoa, and amaranth are good sources. of complex carbohydrates

Oatmeal, quinoa, and amaranth are good sources. of complex carbohydrates

Do you have problems saying “No” to a doughnut after a stressful meeting? It turns out that there’s a good reason for your craving. Carbs trigger your brain to release serotonin, the same "feel-good" chemical that is controlled by anti-depressants. However, try to focus on getting your carbs from complex sources rather than mainlining chips or candy, as complex carbs have the added benefit of controlling blood sugar, which can be elevated in times of stress, and can therefore leave you with less of a sugar crash post-snack. Need ideas on where to get complex carbs? Try oatmeal, quinoa, or brown rice.

3)     Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

  Salmon, walnuts, flax and almonds are good sources of Omega-3s.

Salmon, walnuts, flax and almonds are good sources of Omega-3s.

Stress causes your body to crank out anxiety causing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which are also powerful pro-inflammatory chemicals. Salmon, walnuts, and other omega-3 heavy hitters are potent anti-oxidants that serve to reduce inflammation and decrease the stress hormone response. In a recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), college medical students who took omega-3 supplements had a 20% reduction in anxiety compared to the control group, who did not receive the supplement. Need more food for thought? One 3oz. serving of salmon has almost double the amount of Omega-3’s recommended by the American Heart Association and a whole lot of stress-fighting oomph. 

 

So, the next time you hear "Dominick the Christmas Donkey" come on the radio and feel like gritting your teeth and yelling, breathe, grab a handful of anti-stress foods and remember, Christmas only happens once a year.