JoAnn's Food Bites Food Stress

5 On The Go Foods Which Reduce Holiday Stress

As we approach Christmas and another New Year, most of us are experiencing higher levels of stress.  Between shopping, decorations, family commitments and preparing food – it is hard to control anxiety, much less what you are eating.

JoAnn's Food Bites Food Stress
Photo by Funny Vector

Unfortunately, the American Psychological Association reports 40% of Americans stress eat, regularly.

These statistics are only amplified during the holiday season.

The APA’s study confirms, people seem to recognize stress can have an impact on health, but they do not necessarily take action to prevent stress or manage it well.

Time management seems to be the most popular excuse.  Grabbing high-fat, sugar-filled processed food is easy and convenient, especially for families with children home for the holidays.

Bad Food + Stress = Unhealthy Body

Just snacking and eating junk food is not the problem, it is the combination of junk food and stress.

Dr. Kirstin Aschbacker, a professor at the University of California, researched the affects of eating habits while stressed.

Highly stressed women who ate high-fat, high sugar food developed more health risks than low-stress women eating the exact same unhealthy foods.

Dr. Aschbacker reported, “a calorie is not just a calorie,” when we are stressed.  According to the research, stress triggers peptides in our central nervous system, which, coupled with bad eating habits, form larger abdomen fat cells.  These larger cells are more prone to metabolic instability.

The instability can lead to health issues such as high-blood pressure, heart disease and insulin resistance.

“Diet appears to be a critical variable that can either amplify or protect against the metabolic effects of stress,” said senior research author Elissa Epel.

However, making small, simple changes can make a huge impact on your well-being during this most stressful time of year.


Foods to Reduce Stress

If you are feeling the effects of the Christmas hustle and bustle, incorporate these foods during your meals or as a snack when running all those holiday errands.

Pistachios

Pistachio reduce stress food
Photo by Parenting Healthy Babies

Cultivated in California, Italy, Turkey and Iran, the pistachio nut has a hard, tan shell covering a pale green nut.

Rich in calcium, thiamine, phosphorus, iron, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin A, they contain high tryptophan levels.

Our bodies turn tryptophan into serotonin, a major component for relaxation and healthy sleep.

Available year-round shelled and unshelled, either raw or roasted; salted or not.

When buying unshelled pistachios make sure the shells are partially open – if the shells are closed, the nut meat is immature.

With a delicate, subtle flavor, they are great raw and easy to eat on the go.  High in fiber, they will make you fill fuller longer.

Avocados

This rich fruit is known for its buttery texture and mild, faintly nut-like flavor.  California produces 80% of the United States avocados; however, Mexico is the main importer, during the winter months.

The flesh is generally a pale yellow-green and softly succulent.  The two most widely available varieties are the Hass and the green Fuerte, which has a thin smooth skin.

avocado reduce stress joanns food bitesAvocado reduce stress

A ripe avocado should yield to gentle palm pressure, but be firm.  Unripe avocados are usually found at the supermarket.

Select those that are unblemished and heavy for their size.

To speed the ripening process, place several avocados in a paper bag and set at room temperature for 2-4 days.  Ripe avocados can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Once cut and exposed to the air, an avocado will discolor rapidly, so dish or slice it at the last moment.

Avocados are at their best when ate raw; cooking them diminishes their delicate flavor and can make them taste bitter.

Besides being low in calories (8 ounces = 138 calories), they are loaded in Vitamin C, thiamine and riboflavin.

Link: Video: How to Remove The Pit From an Avocado


Blueberries

Rabbiteye Blueberry bush
Rabbiteye Blueberries can live to be 75 years old. The berries can slow brain aging & improve balance.

These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine, a chemical that is critical to coordination, memory function, and your mood – therefore, naturally reducing stress.

Growing blueberries at home presents a challenge because plants require soils highly acidic, well-drained, loose and high in organic matter.  Also, multiple varieties need to be planted; cross pollination is important for blueberries to thrive.

CLICK HERE for additional info for cultivating blueberries at home

High volume production, lower quality blueberries are what you will find in most supermarkets (compared to fresh berries).  The growing season is typically from the end of May to early October.  Around Christmas-time, large New Zealand blueberries are in supermarkets but at a premium price.

Buy berries that are firm, uniform in size and indigo blue with a silvery frost.  Throw away shriveled or moldy berries.

Do not wash them until ready to use.  Store blueberries, ideally in a single-layer, in a moisture-proof container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

 

Dark Chocolate

Dark Chocolate reduce stress
Photo by Mark’s Daily Apple

It is not coincidence – eating dark chocolate comforts and calms you down during days of high stress.

Chocolate contains anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain, which temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression.

Dark chocolate can include anything from bittersweet to sweet chocolate – as long as it’s neither milk chocolate or white chocolate.

And we are talking in MODERATION folks.  It does not mean you can binge eat an entire package, just because you are feeling sad. 

A few bites of raw, dark chocolate can help in digestion after a large, Christmas meal.

High quality dark chocolate has high cocao percentages ranging from 70% to 99%, which should be indicated on the packaging.

Oranges

joanns food bites Christmas
Photo: JoAnn Johnson

Loaded in Vitamin C, oranges help lower the levels of cortisol {a stress hormone}, and blood pressure during high-anxiety situations.

Once cut or squeezed, vitamin C quickly begins to dissipate.  After only 8 hours at room temperature or 24 hours in the fridge, there is a 20% vitamin C loss.

Canned or processed orange juice is NOT a good substitute, as these juices have a greatly decreased vitamin C content.

Fresh oranges are available year-round at different times, depending upon the variety.

Choose fruit that is firm and heavy for its size, with no mold or spongy spots.  Unfortunately, because oranges are sometimes dyed with food coloring, a bright color is not necessarily an indicator of quality.

Oranges can be stored at cool room temperature for a day or so, but should then be refrigerated and can be kept there for up to 2 weeks.


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Time For a Healthier Lifestyle

Since we seem to know stress is bad; and we are always running behind or short on time, I hope you incorporate some of these suggestions into your daily schedule.

For most of us, exercising and eating well, are at the bottom of the priority list, especially at Christmas.

However, in January, eating a healthier diet, exercising more and losing weight , typically becomes important – #NewYearsResolutions

Consider adding these five foods to your dietary plan and let me know if you FEEL less stressed.

 

Wishing you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

merry christmas food joanns food bites

LINKS & REFERENCES

American Psychological Association – http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/impact.aspx

Dr. Kirstin Aschbacker’s research – http://www.nyrnaturalnews.com/metabolism-2/2014/04/stress-makes-the-health-effects-of-bad-food-even-worse/

 

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