Stress and the daily hassles of life cause our cortisol levels to rise.  Cortisol causes food cravings, and in women those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially sweet foods.  The more of these we eat, the worse our mood gets. As if that weren’t bad enough, the cortisol then triggers an enzyme in our fat cells (it converts cortisone to more cortisol). Since our visceral fat cells (the ones in our abdomen, packed around our vital organs) have more of these enzymes than the subcutaneous fat cells (the fat on our thighs and butts, for example), stress causes many women to accumulate more belly fat. The more stress, the more this abdominal, or central, obesity occurs. Some research has found that these belly fat cells, which have been linked to a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes, have four times as many cortisol receptors as regular fat cells.

 

So what can we do to combat this?  Making some calming foods our comfort foods is a good start.  There are meals and snacks that will truly soothe and calm you. Whether it’s because of the specific nutrients they provide or the steady, reliable source of energy they give you, they’ll get you through the day feeling focused, even, and balanced—so you’ll have the ability to conquer anything

Asparagus are high in folate, which is essential for keeping your cool.  The asparagus is considered a psycho-physiological aphrodisiac because of its shape. It is said to trigger the mind to have a physiological response. It also has so many additional health benefits, it should be added to the healthy diet. Asparagus is great as a detox vegetable and anti-aging vegetable.

 

Avocadoes will stress-proof your body. They are rich in glutathione, a substance that specifically blocks intestinal absorption of certain fats that cause oxidative damage.  They also contain lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and more folate than any other fruit. A single serving (about one-quarter of an avocado) has plenty of B vitamins, too.

 

Blueberries have some of the highest levels of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin, and they’ve been linked to all kinds of positive health outcomes, including sharper cognition. But all berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress. German researchers tested this by asking 120 people to give a speech, then do hard math problems. Those who had been given vitamin C had lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol after the stress fest.

 

Nuts are a great snack and because they are crunchy and a little salty, they cure many cravings. For those trying to lose weight, they’re such a potently satisfying combo of protein and fat that it’s hard for me not to recommend them at every single meal. (You do have to watch portion size though, since they are high in calories.) Cashews are an especially good source of zinc—a 1-ounce serving has 11 percent of your RDA. Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc, it’s important to get some every day.

 

Chamomile tea is probably one of the most recommended bedtime soothers around and there is evidence that it promotes sleep.  A new study from the University of Pennsylvania tested chamomile supplements on 57 participants with generalized anxiety disorder for 8 weeks, and found it led to a significant drop in anxiety symptoms. 

The healthy antioxidants in chocolate push this treat to the top of most heart-healthy food lists and it has an undeniable link to mood. A recent study from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine reports that both women and men eat more chocolate as depressive symptoms increase.  There’s evidence that, in moderation, chocolate does actually make you feel better.  Dark chocolate, in particular, is known to lower blood pressure, adding to a feeling of calm. It contains more polyphenols and flavonols—two important types of antioxidants—than some fruit juices.

Garlic is jam-packed with powerful antioxidants. These chemicals neutralize free radicals (particles that damage our cells, cause diseases, and encourage aging) and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage the free radicals cause over time. Among the compounds in garlic is allicin, which has been linked to fending off heart disease, cancer, and even the common cold. Because stress weakens our immune system, we need friends like garlic, which can toughen it back up.

So add some of these natural stress fighters to your diet to combat the daily hassles in your life and before you know it-you’ll be feeling better.

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