We’ve all done it. When we feel stressed or overwhelmed it’s natural to reach for the most unhealthy, comforting carbohydrates you can lay your hands on – chocolate, pizza, crisps and chicken fillet rolls have all filled that void. Stressful or emotional eating is a common means of coping with stress . But while it may provide a temporary pleasure boost it’s probably not the best idea to eat a packet of crisps every time you’ve had a hard day at work. Luckily there are other, often healthier, foods which can help to temporarily reduce stress. Here we have 3 alternatives:
Take a break from coffee and try chamomile tea. Chamomile is an ancient medicinal herb commonly ground down to make a herbal tea. Chamomile has been found to help alleviate symptoms of a number of different bodily complaints and even reduce stress hormones when inhaled in oil form . Avoid another caffeine crash and try a cup of chamomile tea when you feel stressed. Just holding your hands around a warm cup is comfort in itself.
Here’s the good news! No chocolate isn’t good for you but dark chocolate isn’t as bad as other kinds and it may help to reduce stress hormones in the body. Researchers gave a group of participants 40g of dark chocolate (74% cocoa and the equivalent of a small-size bar) every day for 2 weeks and found that their cortisol levels decreased. We’re not advocating eating chocolate every day but if you’re stressing out take a time-out with a small taste of dark chocolate. If nothing else it will at least be a tasty break from your stressful task.
Or any complex carbohydrates. One team of researchers fed people either a breakfast made up of complex carbohydrates like rye bread or a breakfast of simple carbohydrates including white bread. Those who had the former had lower levels of fatigue 3 hours later and were satiated for longer . If you feel that toast and butter is the only thing that’s going to get you through this next deadline why not try wholewheat toast instead.
In the most recent stress and food news a group of researchers found that a bacteria called Bifidobacterium longum 1714 fed to participants over four-weeks reduced their levels of stress . We might wait for further developments on this one though, Bifidobacterium longum 1714 doesn’t sound quite so appetizing as chocolate.
While these snacks may provide enough tasty distraction to get you over a short stressful hump it’s never a good idea to ignore chronic stress. There are many coping strategies out there from mindfulness to relaxation techniques that can help you to reduce stress. But if it’s just a short term pleasure boost you’re after try some of our healthy alternatives next time you’re reaching for the bag of crisps.
- Oliver, G., J. Wardle, and E.L. Gibson, Stress and food choice: a laboratory study. Psychosomatic medicine, 2000. 62(6): p. 853-865.
- Srivastava, J.K., E. Shankar, and S. Gupta, Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with a bright future (Review). Molecular medicine reports, 2010. 3(6): p. 895-901.
- Pasman, W., et al., Effect of two breakfasts, different in carbohydrate composition, on hunger and satiety and mood in healthy men. International journal of obesity, 2003. 27(6): p. 663-668.
- Allen, A, W Hutch, P Borre, P. J. Kennedy, A Temko, G Boylan, B Kiely, G Clarke, J.F. Cryan, T. G. Dinan. Towards psychobiotics for stress & cognition: Bifidobacterium Longum blocks stressinduced behavioural and physiology changes and modulates brain activity and neurocognitive performance in healthy human subjects. Program No. 162.05/R8. 2015 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. Washington, DC: Society for Neuroscience, 2015. Online.