Had a long day at work? Feeling a strain in your relationships? Are you in a time crunch? Experiencing a financial strain? Are your kids misbehaving? We all face stress at some point in our lives, but the trick is how we can manage it so that it doesn’t affect our health.
Unfortunately for many people, food is the number one choice to cope with stress. In fact, nearly 40 percent of people have reported overeating or eating unhealthy foods as a way for them to deal with stress. (1) It may be easy or comforting to reach out for junk food laden with unhealthy ingredients, but it’s not the wisest choice for your health. Instead, try these stress-busting!
Improve mental health and gut flora with fermented foods!
It is absolutely vital that your gut flora remains healthy and fermented foods can help. Unhealthy gut flora can have a negative impact on a person’s brain health, leading to anxiety or depression. Studies reveal that the beneficial bacteria from probiotics and prebiotics have a direct effect on our brain chemistry, mood, and behaviors. (2)
For instance, one study revealed the effect probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus had on the GABA levels in certain parts of the brain. GABA is the central nervous system inhibitory neurotransmitter and regulates many psychological and physiological processes. Increased GABA levels “reduced stress-induced corticosterone and anxiety- and depression-related behavior.” (3)
Another study indicated that women who regularly consumed fermented milk products with probiotics (FMPP) had an improved brain function compared to those who did not. The authors concluded, “Four-week intake of an FMPP by healthy women affected activity of brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation.” (4)
Fermenting vegetables, quick and easy!
There are many ways you canfood and beverage items, using teas, milk (regular or non-dairy), and much more! (5) Here’s a quick and easy tutorial on how to ferment your favorite vegetables with simple ingredients. You really only need three ingredients: vegetables of your choice, high quality sea salt, and clean water.
Other stress-busting food items to include
If fermented foods aren’t your favorite, there are other foods you can enjoy to help your stress levels. Consider reaching for one of these:
- Dark leafy green vegetables are rich in folate, which helps produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine.
- Blueberries are an anti-oxidant rich fruit that boost memory function.
- Pistachios can lower vascular constriction during stress. Consume two servings per day.
- Dark chocolate is considered a ‘feel-good’ food that can help you stay relaxed. Only 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate is needed for positive effects.
- Avocados regulate blood sugars and help you feel satisfied, which can help keep your mood steady. (6)
A non-food source to keep you stress-free is getting your daily does of. People with adequate vitamin D from the sun were reported to have an uplifted mood and less stress. (6)
The next time you’re experiencing stress, try reaching out for these options instead! What other healthy ways do you use to deal with stress?
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Heather Suhr is a successful deaf individual who graduated from Purdue University on a golf scholarship with a BA degree in Health and Fitness. She currently lives in Southeastern Wisconsin and stays active through running and weight lifting. She is also a certified NASM personal trainer and is passionate in helping others achieve their fitness and wellness goals. She loves cook healthy plant-based whole foods for herself and others around her.