I recently polled my readers and asked them what triggered their cravings. By far, the top response was stress, anxiety and depression.
I know what this is like first-hand as I, too, struggle with cravings triggered by stress. The more stress I have in my life, the more I want to just throw in the towel and order a pizza and finish it off with chocolate chip cookies (the whole box, of course!).
They don’t call it “comfort food” for nothing!
The number one thing you can do to reduce or prevent cravings is to ensure that you are getting sufficient calories and adequate nutrients in your diet. Real, physical hunger will cause intense cravings that may threaten to pull you off course.
But psychological cravings, which are not caused by hunger or nutritional deficiencies, are caused by emotions, and are just as difficult, if not more difficult, to overcome. Even when you do consume sufficient calories, your emotions can easily convince you that you are actually hungry.
Learn more about psychological cravings vs. physiological cravings.
There is a two-step strategy that I use to overcome cravings brought on by stress. Step one is to use stress-reduction techniques. Step two is to eat stress-busting foods.
Step 1: Stress Reduction
Things I do to reduce stress, anxiety or other negative emotions are:
- Exercise (particularly cardiovascular workouts like running, but any workout helps to alleviate stress),
- Yoga (you can find some easy 15 minute videos on YouTube, like this one,)
- Meditation (check out how to do it here),
- Taking a walk in the woods or around the block,
- Listening to relaxing music with my eyes closed for 5-10 minutes,
- Calling a friend just to chat,
- Progressive muscle relaxation (you can find some easy to follow 10 minute videos on YouTube, like this one.)
These activities help disrupt feelings of stress. They can also help dispel or reduce built up tension in your body. They also help disrupt negative thought patterns.
A brisk walk in the woods always helps to pull me out of an unproductive, stressful mood and pushes me into a positive, idea-filled state of mind.
Step 2: Eat Stress-Busting Foods
There are some stress-busting foods out there, and yes, I even have some green smoothie recipes specifically for reducing stress.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid and a chemical precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in regulating mood, appetite and sleep. Serotonin can also be converted to melatonin by your body, which is a hormone that helps promote a healthy sleep cycle – something which is essential for combating and reducing stress.
Since stress may deplete the body of nutrients like B vitamins and vitamin C, fruits and vegetables that are rich in these nutrients may help minimize the effects on the body caused by stress.
Antioxidants also play an important role in promoting overall health and I always be sure to eat antioxidant-rich foods when I am under stress.
Green Smoothie Foods For Stress And Relaxation
To make a green smoothie to chill you out after a long, stressful day, use fruits and vegetables that are rich in the amino acid, tryptophan. Tryptophan-rich foods include spinach, broccoli, leafy greens, apricots, celery, beets, dried dates and sesame seeds.
Cacao (raw chocolate) may provide some benefit to help certain people relax. Cacao contains tryptophan as well as phenylethylamine, a chemical that is produced when you fall in love, and anandamide – a neurotransmitter sometimes called the “bliss chemical”. You can add raw cacao powder to green smoothies.
Please note, if you are sensitive to caffeine or prone to anxiety, regular or excessive use of cacao may cause feelings of anxiety or restlessness.
Most fruits and vegetables provide a rich source of B vitamins (except vitamin B12) and vitamin C. Bananas are excellent sources of B vitamins, especially B6. Try some delicious green smoothie recipes made with banana.
When under stress or tension, include antioxidant-rich berries in your green smoothie recipes such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, blackberries, and acai berries.
I hope these tips can help you reduce stress and minimize the health effects it takes on your body.