The holidays are upon us and so is the stress and anxiety that often accompanies this festive time of year. It can be hard to take care of your body and your mind with things wrapping up before the years end, the shopping for others and schedule changes—that impact everyone. The most wonderful time of year is also a time when more people get sick, stressed and sad.
Holiday stress can make you feel anxious and overwhelmed. Don’t let the stress in your life make you sick or a scrooge this holiday season. Eat foods that help you, don’t gorge on the ones that hurt you. Eating the right foods, even when those holiday cookies are calling your name, can help you manage and reduce the stress and anxiety you’re feeling. It may be challenging to avoid the sweet treats that find their way into your home or office—you don’t have to say no but you can make an extra effort to eat more foods that are filled with stress reducing superpowers.
Foods to Fight Holiday Stress
Special foods, especially those with B12, zinc, magnesium, rich in inhibitory amino acids and antioxidants, can help you fight the holiday stress. Add these power foods to your diet, and you may power the holiday blues.
- Almonds: Almonds are a rich source of Vitamin B, which reduces anxiety and stress. Almonds contain a large and complex range of B vitamins. Almonds are also high in Vitamin E, which bolster the immune system.
- Greek Yogurt: If you can tolerate milk products, yogurt is a great source of protein. Plain Greek yogurt contains as much as 22 grams of protein per 6 ounce servings. Yogurt lowers bloods pressure and is full of Vitamins B6 and B2. Greek yogurt is also rich in potassium, protein, calcium and magnesium. All these help reduce anxiety. Greek yogurt also stimulates the production of the norepinephrine and dopamine, which, like serotonin, are brain chemicals and neurotransmitters that help keep you alert, aware and calm.
- Salmon: Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) to boost mood. If you aren’t a big fan of salmon, try other fish high in Omega-3 such as tuna, mackerel or sardines. Omega 3’s have been shown to reduce depression and are imperative to helping your neurotransmitters connect with ease.
- Green Tea: The L-theanine in green tea has been proven to stop rising blood pressure and heart rate as well as reduce anxiety. Those that take 200 mg of L-theanine show signs of being calm and collected. The amino acid L-theanine stops rising heart rate and blood pressure, and reduces anxiety. Those that drink green tea are much calmer and more focused. Drink instead of coffee for caffeine, it doesn’t simulate the brain as much as your Java, and is less addicting.
- Turkey: Researchers believe the amino acid tryptophan helps reduce stress and assists the brain in producing feel-good chemicals such as serotonin, which helps you feel calm in times of stress. Tryptophan in meat has been shown to reduce anxiety disorders. Meats rich in Vitamin B are great at lowering anxiety levels. Thiamin, or Vitamin B, affects mood while B12 or folic acid have a correlation to depression. For other animal-based proteins high in B Vitamins, try beef, pork, and chicken. Grass-fed beef is also an Omega-rich food that helps suppress cortisol and adrenaline when one is under stress and anxiety
- Asparagus: Low levels of folic acid have been linked to depression. Asparagus is a mood-enhancing nutrient. Asparagus is also a sulfur-rich vegetable. Vitamin B and folic acid are naturally abundant in Asparagus which will help you fight off depression and anxiety. Asparagus also contains potassium, which lowers blood pressure, Vitamin C, and fiber. Fiber slows down blood sugar by making you feel full.
- Avocados: Vitamin B deficiency has been linked to a myriad of mental health disorders and increases stress. Avocados are a rich source of B vitamins, monounsaturated fat necessary for the brain, and potassium. Potassium in avocados helps lower blood pressure, and it tastes great.
- Spinach: Spinach is full of magnesium which regulates cortisol levels and feelings of being well. This superstar vegetable is also rich in folate.
- Chocolate: Enjoy those yummy holiday chocolate treats—mindfully of course. Pure, dark chocolate without added sugar is a great food to fight off stress and anxiety. Holiday stress can come from trying to avoid sweet treats but chocolate reduces your cortisol levels and improves mood. A 100 gram bar of dark chocolate with 70-85% cocoa contains vital nutrients and fiber.
Be mindful that a healthy digestive tract is important for you to digest these stress-fighting foods and get all the benefit. If you have been struggling with stomach upset or irregular bowel movements—not to mention feel that the anxiety or stress you are feeling is too much to bare, do reach out to your practitioner or sign up for a test kit. We want you to feel happy, healthy and have low stress this holiday season so take care of yourself first.
Have a happy holiday!
Emily Roberts MA, LPC
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is the clinical therapist for the Neurogistics Children’s Program. She has worked with Neurogistics for over a decade. Emily is also an award-winning author of Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, educational speaker and parenting consultant. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.
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