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What's Up Magazine

Stressed Out? Have a Snack

Apr 01, 2018 07:00AM
By Kelsey Casselbury 

Skip the chips and reach for a nosh that science says will bust stress

The day was hard. When you get home, you fling open the fridge doors and hunt for something that will make things feel just a little bit easier. Stress eating is a real struggle, and it leads you to reach for high-fat, high-sugar, and/or high-sodium foods as a way to comfort yourself. 

At first, stress tampers your appetite as your kidneys pump out epinephrine, a hormone that triggers your body’s fight-or-flight response. When that stress persists, though, the adrenal glands starts to release cortisol, a hormone that boosts your appetite and causes you to overeat foods that don’t do you any favors. That’s because stress also plays a role in what foods you prefer, with research showing that fat- and sugar-filled foods decrease the brain activity that processes stress and all of the myriad emotions that go with it. So, that comfort food—well, it’s aptly named—is going to comfort you for at least a little while.

But, then the regret sets in and you’ll feel anything but comforted. While stress might make you reach for the cookie jar, those biscuits won’t do anything to actually ease the stress. Instead, try a snack that science says will soothe you—without any remorse.

 Frozen bananas
For those who have more of a sweet tooth, try an icy banana instead of a Popsicle or ice cream. Bananas contain both tryptophan and vitamin B6, substances that fight stress. The former is converted into serotonin, the “happiness hormone,” while the latter helps manufacture even more serotonin. If you simply can’t resist ice cream, blend that frozen banana into a creamy treat. 

 Baby carrots with sour cream
Beyond craving sodium and fat, there’s a reason potato chips are so satisfying when you’re feeling tense—the crunch of the chips is cathartic. Replicate that catharsis with crunchy baby carrots, which also boast tons of beta-carotene (which your body converts into vitamin A), which nearly disappears from your body when you’re stressed. Make it feel like a treat by dipping those carrots into sour cream for a dose of comforting fat and tension-taming calcium. 

Stress can cause worrisome thoughts to loop through your mind over and over again, but doing something repetitive—like shelling pistachios—can help calm those thoughts through rhythmic movement. Research in 2014 also found that two servings of pistachios per day lowered vascular constriction (i.e. lowers your blood pressure) during periods of stress. 

When you’re craving something in high in fat, reach for this buttery nut instead of something junkier. Its concentration of zinc (11 percent of the daily recommended value) helps ease anxiety by regulating levels of mood-influence chemicals. 

 Dark chocolate
Thankfully, there’s one stress-busting food in this list that you’re probably familiar with: chocolate. However, it has to be the dark kind, the one that contains at least 70 percent cocoa. The antioxidants in that cocoa triggers the walls  of your blood vessels to relax, which lowers
blood pressure and improves circulation. Dark chocolate also reduces cortisol, a stress hormone.