Clean the house, buy the presents, wrap the presents, plan the meals, prep the guestrooms, decorate, decorate, decorate.
Oh, and don’t forget to send out your Christmas letter, lest any of your in-laws begin to think you no longer care for them.
The holidays are a stressful time no matter how big or small your celebrations might be. But they also often revolve around food… and lots of it.
Instead of worrying about adding inches to your waistline, this year why not use food as a way to fight back the stress and even curb any potential bouts with seasonal depression.
To do that, you need to know which foods naturally fight stress.
You might be thinking to yourself, well, does it really matter? I always feel better when I’m munching.
The trick there is separating emotional eating (which just masks the underlying problem and leads to weight gain) from eating foods that naturally provide the kind of raw energy your body can use to maintain healthy energy and stress levels.
Let’s focus on these foods for a happier New Year.
When stress hits, many of us instinctively turn to foods like whole grains that are high in carbohydrates. Why?
Because carbs help your body produce serotonin, a hormone that naturally fights the negative effects of stress. But don’t turn to simple carbs like refined breads.
Instead, choose healthy carbs like organic oatmeal, which also offers a good serving of dietary fiber that’ll help keep you feeling full for longer.
Everyone’s favorite green, fleshy, fatty fruit is one of Mother Nature’s best stress fighters.
“Rich in glutathione, a substance that specifically blocks intestinal absorption of certain fats that cause oxidative damage, avocados also contain lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and more folate than any other fruit,” according to Prevention Magazine.
Avocados are also full of B complex vitamins, another natural positive energy booster.
Salmon (and Other Fatty Fish)
Another food high in those good-for-you fats known as omega-3s, salmon can help reverse symptoms of stress in your body.
Omega-3s can help boost serotonin levels in much the same way complex carbs do. A diet high in omega-3s can also help suppress anxiety-causing hormones like cortisol.
Try salmon, trout, sardines, herring or anchovies
Another great cortisol blocker, black tea is known as a calming, relaxing and stress-fighting beverage that’s been enjoyed throughout the ages.
Take a tip from the ancients to kick your anxiety to the curb with a fresh cup of black tea (hot or cold). As an added bonus, it may also improve your memory and help get rid of headaches.
All the Berries
Have you noticed the trend? Whole foods straight from nature, and next up we have Mother Nature’s sweet, all-natural dessert: berries!
Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are all naturally high in vitamin C, a natural stress fighter linked to lower blood pressure and—you guessed it—lower cortisol levels. Blueberries in particular are also high in anthocyanin, a special kind of antioxidant that’s linked to improved cognition and mental power.
Nuts and Seeds
Sticking with the raw, whole food concept, nuts and seeds should already be featured in your regular diet, but if you needed added incentive, know they will also help you fight off stress.
Cashews offer a natural source of zinc (low levels of which have been linked to anxiety and stress). Walnuts may help you lower blood pressure (which anyone dealing with high levels of stress would certainly welcome). And seeds like sunflower seeds provide folate, which helps your body produce dopamine, the pleasure hormone.
Tis the season, after all, for sweet treats, so we couldn’t leave off this all-time favorite stress-busting food.
Dark chocolate is perhaps Mother Nature’s greatest gift: an indulgence that satisfies your sweet tooth, doesn’t kill your diet and even helps elevate your mood and reduce anxiety.
It also may help lower blood pressure, and it contains more antioxidant polyphenols and flavonols than some highly touted fruit juices.
There you have it—a quick list of easy foods that you can keep on hand for a quick counterpunch to holiday stress.
Don’t let the in-laws determine your mood. Keep some fresh berries in the fridge, a bowl of mixed nuts on the coffee table and maybe even add some fish to the meal plan.
And don’t feel bad if you want to keep the dark chocolate hidden just for you! You have our permission.