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How Food Can Help Keep You Sane

Christine Byrne
Nov 19, 2019

Whenever stress is running high, the munchies are not far behind. The guilt spiral of overindulging is next, which starts the cycle of endless unhealthy snacking all over again. But food doesn’t have to be a source of angst: it can actually help keep you calm if you include the right ingredients. Here’s how:

Integrate calming ingredients into your diet

Constantly updating feeds and the 24-hour news cycle can be a major source of stress. Instead of succumbing to over-processed snacks, incorporating certain nutrient-rich foods into your diet can help combat the frazzle.

For example, B vitamins such as folate and B-12 can help support energy production and impact mood, says Emily Navarro, RDN, senior manager of health and wellness at Freshly. Whole grains, eggs, and beans are all great sources.

Magnesium is another mineral that helps play a role in regulating mood and managing stress—it’s found in nuts and seeds. For a treat, dark chocolate and berries contain antioxidants called flavonoids, which have mood-boosting, anti-inflammatory effects.

You may be tempted to experiment with adaptogenic herbs such as Siberian ginseng, which have been linked to reduced stress levels, but there’s still no solid evidence on them yet, says Navarro.

Incorporate protein into your regular meals

There’s a reason why those breakfast pastries make you crash and burn—they’re all sweets and no meat! “Eating protein at each meal, especially breakfast, helps stabilize blood sugar and keeps you feeling more satisfied, energized and less prone to cravings for sweet snacks throughout the day,” Navarro says. She suggests aiming for 20 grams of protein at breakfast, and every other meal.

But meat isn’t your only option: oats, salmon, plain greek yogurt, peanut butter, quinoa and chia seeds are also great sources of protein. Staying hydrated throughout the day is another way to manage your fatigue and mood: dehydration can make you feel hungry and lead to exhaustion, says Navarro. So drink plenty of water on those shopping sprees (eating hydrating foods like fruit works too!)

Slow down and eat more mindfully

Working from home can mean you're searching the cabinet, eating standing up in the kitchen or in front of the tv, but taking a moment to pause, particularly while you’re eating, can help you make healthier choices: “Mindful eating is all about tuning in and enjoying your eating experience which can help us avoid overindulging,” says Navarro.

So when you’re faced with a pantry full of snacks, make yourself a deliberate plate of what you want and then focus on enjoying each bite. Try to chew slowly and appreciate the textures of what you’re eating. You’ll be less likely to reach for too much.

Lean into cooking food you love

Sure, sheltering at home isn’t necessarily relaxing. But hopefully we can all find some moments where we connect with ourselves —and food is often a big part of that. Think of some of your favorite meals, either from family recipes or your takeout favorites and recreate them at home.

Making traditional dishes like a tagine will foster major warm and fuzzies, and a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

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How Food Can Help Keep You Sane