“Emotional eating is turning to food for comfort, stress relief or as a reward rather than to satisfy hunger. Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings. When the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about.”
Although you’ll temporarily feel good after eating “comfort food,” you might end up regretting this in the long term. Emotional eating can result in binge eating, failure to focus on the situation that triggers both unhealthy heating habits and devastating stress2 and weight gain.3
These Stress-Busting Food Items Are All You Need
Being anxious is not an excuse for you to be reckless with what you eat. The next time you’re down in the dumps, opt for these potentially stress-busting foods to allow you to combat these feelings:4
✓ Green leafy vegetables: According to Heather Mangieri, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, these vegetables contain folate that produces “dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical [or neurotransmitter], helping you keep calm.”
✓ Organic turkey breast: This contains an amino acid called tryptophan that the body converts into serotonin.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate your emotions and enhance well-being.
In fact, serotonin deficiency has been linked with anxiety and depression.6
Other notable sources of tryptophan include pumpkin seeds, nuts and organic pastured eggs.
✓ Fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir and natto: Beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, are abundant in fermented foods, which are important in improving your brain health and mood.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know that enhancing their gut flora is a surefire way to boost mental health.
This is because probiotics have a direct effect on your brain chemistry, transferring mood- and behavior-regulating signals to the brain via the vagus nerve.
A probiotic named Lactobacillus rhamnosus was shown to have a positive effect on GABA levels in particular brain regions.7
Meanwhile, levels of corticosterone, a stress-induced hormone, were also decreased, leading to reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.8
Past research has proven that omega-3 fats were effective in inhibiting initial symptoms of depression without the side effects.9
Meanwhile, another study recorded a 20 percent decrease in anxiety among medical students who took omega-3s.10
✓ Blueberries: Pigments called anthocyanins are responsible for the deep colors of both blueberries and blackberries and various brain-enhancing capabilities.
Anthocyanins are antioxidants that assist the brain in the production of dopamine.
✓ Kiwifruits: These fruits contain more than 85 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
Most people tend to associate with vitamin C with fighting off infections, but they can also be good for your body’s stress levels.
Studies have shown that consistent vitamin C intake helped lower both the levels of stress hormones in the blood and typical indicators of both physical and emotional stress.11
Don’t forget that bananas also have B vitamins that could assist in calming down your nervous system, as well as magnesium, a mineral that has been associated with positive mood.
✓ Turmeric: This spice has been renowned globally, thanks to curcumin.
This pigment is responsible for the spice’s bright yellow-orange hue and the health benefits.
Plus, curcumin has neuroprotective properties that can defend your brain and improve your mood.
✓ Dark chocolate: Taking a bite of dark chocolate can be beneficial in enhancing mood.
Anandamide, a neurotransmitter often produced in your brain, is made in chocolate.
Plus, the other chemicals in chocolate could extend the “feel-good” aspects of anandamide.
However, do remember to eat chocolate in moderation, since there are still varieties that contain high amounts of sugar that can be devastating for your health.
✓ Tea:13 Anxiety disorder patients are advised to constantly drink fluids and, along with water, tea is a very good choice.
But sipping organically grown tea for anxiety relief won’t just help with hydration.
Incorporating tea drinking into your daily routine could be calming in the long run, as anxiety disorder patients tend to relax more when they’re engrossed in a routine.
The Huffington Post says that peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, passion flower, green tea and rose tea are ideal for anxiety disorder patients.14
Just make sure to consult your physician first before consuming any of these teas, especially if you are pregnant.
Does the Combination of Caffeine and Anxiety Work?
Caffeine, usually found in coffee and sports drinks, is defined as a “psychoactive drug that can cause or exacerbate anxiety and other stress-related signs and symptoms in many ways.”15 However, this doesn’t mean that you should deprive yourself of caffeine. In fact, a cup of organic black coffee without added creamers, sugars or sweeteners could be helpful for anxiety patients.
A cup of joe can positively affect your brain health, as caffeine is known to enhance production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline that can be helpful with mood control.
Plus, caffeine activates the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that causes brain stem cells to convert into new neurons.
The key to making coffee work for you, despite the caffeine in it, is to consume it in moderation — about three to five cups daily. Obviously, you still have to listen to your body to see how much coffee you can tolerate in one day. However, if you’re pregnant, you should refrain from drinking any coffee at all.
Let Go of Mood-Wrecking Foods
Meanwhile, steer clear of these three types of food if you have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or are feeling anxious, since they can further exacerbate symptoms:
• Sugar: Consuming too much sugar can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar and result in mood swings. But that’s not all, as eating refined sugars can play a role in insulin and leptin resistance and impaired signaling that can impact your mental health.
High amounts of sugar also subdue BDNF activity that can potentially help in promoting healthy brain neurons. Lastly, excessive sugar intake can result in various chemical reactions in your body that could promote chronic inflammation, disrupting your immune system and increasing the risk for depression.
• Gluten: This protein found in grains like wheat, rye and barley has been proven to negatively impact your mood and brain health. Various studies have shown a strong connection between eating a gluten-filled diet and other mental illnesses such as depression and schizophrenia.16
Aside from this, wheat prevents the production of serotonin. Contrary to popular belief, most of your body’s supply of serotonin is in your intestines and not in your brain, so the brunt of wheat’s negative side effects are felt almost immediately by your gut flora.
• Processed foods: These foods are usually made with sugar and/or gluten, combined with other harmful ingredients like trans fats, artificial sweeteners and colors, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and synthetic ingredients. A potent combination of these ingredients can cause irritability and poor mood.