Comfort food pretty much does it all, from mending a broken heart, to nursing a period-induced sugar craving, and everything in between. Seriously, nothing feels better than providing your body with the nourishment it needs, and deserves. And oftentimes, those changes in your mood after a tasty snack aren't just in your head -- many foods have been scientifically shown to reduce stress.
The key, however, is to know what you should and shouldn't be eating when you're looking for a little stress relief.
Nutritionist and founder of Pure Change Dr. Charles Passler tells Elite Daily processed foods, no matter how satisfying they are to munch on, won't make you feel better in the long run.
Chemicals and processed foods stress the liver and high-carb foods stress the pancreas. Both situations force the body to work harder and can cause an increased production of the stress hormone cortisol.
High cortisol decreases cognitive function and energy. Eating healthy balanced snacks allows the hormones, energy, and cognition to remain stable.
Greasy french fries and a pint of Ben & Jerry's may sound like a great idea at the time, but delicious quick-fixes typically only yield short-term benefits.
Rather than over-indulging in sugar-loaded snacks that can actually make you feel pretty gross after the fact, opt for any one of these healthy alternatives to snack your stress away.
1. Warm Milk
Stress can often affect your sleeping pattern, so if you're struggling to get some shut-eye, you may want to consider drinking a warm glass of milk before bed.
The amino acid tryptophan in milk relaxes your body, allowing you to drift off to sleep more easily.
For a non-dairy alternative, golden mylk would also suffice.
2. Dark Chocolate
Kelly Spring, MS, RD, CDN, and owner of Kelly's Choice Nutrition Company, tells Elite Daily dark chocolate is a great stress-reliever, as it works to decrease cortisol levels and brighten your mood.
So the next time work has you worried, skip happy hour and get chocolate-wasted instead!
Avocado is literally life and, it turns out, an edible stress-reliever.
This Insta-worthy toast-topper is loaded with glutathione, a natural substance that blocks intestinal absorption of harmful fats and vitamin E. Avocados also boast a generous serving of folate, which helps relax your entire body.
4. Black Tea
My mother has convinced me there's nothing a cup of tea can't solve.
And, if you don't believe my mom (ahem, how dare you), according to a study performed by University College London, participants who drank four cups of black tea every day for six weeks had lower levels of cortisol in their blood.
These summery fruits keep you cool, calm, and collected. Vitamin C combats stress, so you'll definitely want to top your oatmeal, smoothie bowls, salads, and yogurt with a handful (or two) of your favorite variety.
6. White Bean Dip
Nutrition Coach and Carrots 'N' Cake blogger Tina Haupert says her go-to stress-buster is a bowl of her signature white bean dip, made with canned white beans, almond butter, honey, cinnamon, salt, and a dash of vanilla extract.
She tells Elite Daily,
The white beans and honey mix makes for a winning combination that provides plenty of nutrients and staying power from protein, fiber, and healthy fats that can lower stress levels. The honey adds natural flavor to the spread, so you don't taste the beans at all!
You don't typically see people casually snacking on salmon, but maybe it's high time someone starts the trend.
High in omega-3 fatty acids, once slice of salmon could be the difference between brain fog and salary bonus. Take a bite when you feel like you're lacking motivation, and you'll be well-equipped to deal with any stress that comes your way.
Recognized by the FDA as an excellent food source to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, macadamia nuts are also a stress-relieving snack.
Spring recommends snacking on macadamia nuts from Royal Hawaiian Orchards, raving "they even have dark chocolate blueberry acai macadamia nuts for an even bigger stress-relieving punch!"
You don't have to wait for lunch or dinner to snack on produce.
Veggies like spinach, kale, chard, and broccoli are all loaded with folate which helps regulate your mood. So if you're feeling the emotional munchies, steam some greens and snack on, baby.
I'll slice, dice, and put coconut on everything, but did you know just one whiff of the tropical fruit is enough to reduce stress levels?
According to a pilot study performed by Columbia University, those who breathed in a coconut scent after a challenging task saw their blood pressure regulate more quickly than those who did not.
My advice? Buy the coconut, cut it in half, and sniff the stress away.
OK technically you add the spice to food, but curcumin, the active compound found in turmeric, boosts DHA levels in the brain, in addition to helping your body maintain a healthy gut.
The next time you're feeling stressed to the point of mindless indulgence, do yourself (and your body) a favor by snacking smart.
You'll feel better, faster, and your body will thank you.