Have you ever found yourself so stressed out that the only comfort is gorging chocolate? In fact, there is an entire category of food called comfort food that is designed to provide us with the same comfort we might get from a good friend or a nap. Macaroni and cheese is one great example. These are foods that are usually high in carbs and fat and remind us of our childhood and simpler, less stressful times in our lives.
While comfort food might provide a short burst of happy feelings, the effects don’t last long and the stress soon returns. Why is this? And what can we do about it?
How food exacerbates depression
Research has demonstrated that there may be a link between poor diet and depression. While medical science needs more studies to determine the exact reason why, they can’t deny the connection between unhealthy diet and higher instances of depression and other medical conditions. On the other hand, individuals who consumed healthier foods had much lower risks for chronic conditions and depression.
The diets in question include large amounts of sweets, processed meat, fried foods, popular and sugary breakfast cereals, and high fat dairy foods.
The negative effects of stress and unhealthy diets may be a chicken or the egg argument. Stress, eating behavior, and obesity are all symptoms of a much larger problem and it is essential that we determine the underlying problems and deal with them on a holistic level if we expect to see real change.
How foods help depression
There is always a flipside to the research, however. When people consume healthier food options they have a far lower risk of developing depression or other illnesses. To get the most out of your diet it is recommended that you:
- Eat nutrient rich foods
- Have plenty of anti-oxidants in your diet
- Choose the right carbs
- Eat protein-rich foods
- Get enough vitamin D
- Eat omega-3 fatty acids
- Exercise regularly
- Monitor your weight
So what foods are good for reducing stress and fighting depression? Here are six foods to try.
While most people only think of Asparagus as that vegetable that makes it smell funny when you head to the bathroom, it is an overlooked healthy choice when it comes to stress. Asparagus has a lot of folate, a vitamin B complex that is an essential nutrient and a known blues-buster. It is super easy to prepare asparagus and it is delicious all by itself, but there are many possible preparations if you want to experiment in the kitchen.
- Garlicy asparagus: Garlic, though not on this specific list, is also a great food to battle depression so why not pair these two stars up in one dish? This recipe is as simple as steaming the asparagus, then lightly sautéing it with fresh garlic. It is a perfect side for a variety of meals.
This creamy fruit is jam-packed with nutrients, all of which help fight off stress and depression. It is also an extremely versatile fruit and can be made into guacamole or added to sandwiches or salads. It pairs well with goat cheese, salsa, burgers, or just about anything else.
- Grilled chicken salad with avocado and mango: If you want to make avocado the star of your meal, check out this great salad idea. It is easy to prepare with grilled chicken, greens, avocado, and mango. The zippy dressing will add a splash of flavor to the entire meal.
Nuts have been a go-to healthy snack for as long as anyone can remember. They all have the perfect combination of protein and fat and can be a great addition to any diet. Cashews, in particular, are high in zinc which is a nutrient that is found in very low levels in people who experience depression and anxiety.
- Honey cashews: If you want to snack on these nuts but need a little extra flavor here is an easy recipe to add a little sweet-and-saltiness to your cashews. All you need is a little vegetable oil, light brown sugar, honey, kosher salt, and water. You basically just toss and bake for a great snack that will satisfy your cravings.
Chocolate doesn’t have to be villainized, especially when it is of the dark variety. Sure, eating an entire candy bar in one sitting isn’t the healthiest habit, but smaller pieces of dark chocolate once in a while actually help your brain. Dark chocolate is rich in anti-oxidants and there is no denying that it can make you feel better when you eat it.
- Dark chocolate mulled wine sauce: Desserts don’t have to be off the menu just because you’re trying to be healthy. Here is a delicious chocolate sauce that you can add to a small bowl of ice cream or frozen yogurt to satisfy your sweet tooth. It is made with red wine, too, which is also considered healthy in small doses.
Tea is a comforting ritual. Many types of tea have a healthy impact on the body but none more than green tea. Green tea does contain caffeine, but more importantly it also contains an amino acid called theanine that helps boost mental performance. Just brew up a cup and relax, which will also help relieve your stress and beat the blues.
- Minty iced tea: If hot tea doesn’t seem like the right beverage as the weather warms up, consider this delicious iced alternative using green tea. You just need to add honey or agave, fresh mint, and ice.
Either you love or hate this shellfish, but there is no denying the healthy benefits of a few oysters. Just an appetizer portion can give you plenty of zinc. You probably won’t eat oysters at home, but they are a great treat when you’re out with friends and family. Even better, they don’t need a fancy recipe to make them perfect. At the most, add a little lemon or a dollop of horseradish before slurping them down. No recipe is needed.
What healthy foods do you eat when you need a pick-me-up?
Image by Lee McCoy via Flickr