Caregiving is no easy task, and anyone who’s been a caretaker knowns it can lead to high stress levels. This stress can be accompanyed by strong food cravings. Many of us develop a raging sweet tooth or want to indulge in other carbohydrate-rich foods, according to research from the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center. There’s a better option, though. If you’re curious about how to relieve stress, the answer may be as easy as changing the foods you eat.
Studies show that simply by eating the right foods, you can reduce the effects of stress in your life. B vitamins and magnesium, in particular, have been shown to affect the release of stress hormones in the body. This means that eating a well-balanced diet with plenty of leafy green vegetables, whole grains, and proteins is paramount.
- Eat Whole Grains. When you’re stressed out, homestyle comfort foods are often a first choice. Pasta, rice, and breads are popular. While these carbohydrate-rich foods will give you a boost of energy and warm you up, it’s important to eat them in moderation. High-carb meals can lead to a sugar crash later on, leaving you feeling worse than before. Whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, and brown rice are better choices than the traditional white varieties. They take longer to digest and could limit the spike in blood sugar levels. Plus, many are rich in B vitamins. This means they work to promote proper brain function. They also help fight fatigue by helping your body turn the food you eat into energy more effectively, according to the National Institutes of Health.
- Opt for Oatmeal. Not only is oatmeal another whole grain, but it’s also packed with potassium, which regulates blood pressure. In addition, it has another stress-reducing powerhouse: magnesium. Research conducted by the Great Smokies Diagnostic Laboratory shows that magnesium can have a profound effect on neural excitability. This means that eating foods rich in the mineral should help you remain calm.
- Try Root Vegetables. Root vegetables, sweet potatoes and carrots in particular, are packed with all kinds of vitamins and minerals. The beta-carotene supports your immune system to help keep you healthy, and they’re full of fiber. This means they’re slow to digest and you will feel fuller longer. They’re also sweet, so they can even help you nip the dessert cravings in the bud.
- If You Need Chocolate, Choose Dark Chocolate. Sometimes, nothing will do but chocolate. If your sweet tooth demands this comfort food, dark chocolate is a good choice. Not only does it contain magnesium, but it’s also much higher in theobromine than its milk chocolate cousin. This chemical can help to relieve tension and is what makes chocolate a “feel good” food. Snack on a few squares from a chocolate bar, or combine warm milk, dark chocolate and the sweetener of your choice for a mug of hot cocoa.
Caring for a loved one can leave us so frazzled that we don’t care for ourselves very well when we let stress continue to build. Learning how to relieve stress is important to our own health. One of the easiest ways is to choose foods that are high in B vitamins and magnesium and eat a well-balanced diet. By making positive food choices, you can actually help your body handle the daily stresses of being a caregiver more effectively.