Many of us can relate to ‘stress eating’, but unlike a guilt-ridden crash after a junk food binge, these foods actually help to relieve stress…

It’s pretty obvious – what you put in is what you get out, and if you’re fuelling your body with rubbish, you’re bound to feel horrible.

However, it’s hard to resist that chocolate bar when you’re stressed and exhausted.

The good news is that you don’t have to resist altogether – you just need to strike a balance.

This means making every effort to eat a balanced diet that includes fresh fruit, veg and chocolate – yes, chocolate!

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

Start with fresh fruit and veg

Summer is a great time to fill up on fresh salads and fruit – and this can help you manage your waistline and your stress.

Research from the University of Otago found that eating fresh fruit and vegetables is strongly associated with better mental health compared to cooked/canned/processed fruit and vegetables.

Why are fresh fruit and veg better than the cooked or canned variety?

Dr Tamlin Conner, the lead study author, believes that this could be because cooking fruit and vegetables may diminish the nutrient levels that are essential for optimal emotional functioning.

More is more

And since we’re talking about nutrient levels, did you know that women need more nutrients than men do to support a sense of wellbeing?

This was the conclusion of a Binghamton University survey.

The researchers found that men are more likely to experience mental wellbeing until nutritional deficiencies arise. However, women are less likely to experience mental wellbeing until a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are followed.

It’s all the more reason to up your servings of fruit and vegetables a day.

How to relieve stress: Rethink social media

Have that chocolate

If you crave chocolate during a stressful day, go on and satisfy the craving with good quality dark chocolate or a hot chocolate drink made with low-fat milk or almond milk.

Two studies have proved that eating dark chocolate with high concentrations of cacao (minimum 70% cacao) has positive effects on stress levels, inflammation, mood, memory and immunity.

Work stress-busting foods into your meals

Here are some ways to boost your intake of calm-inducing foods:

  • Start your day with fresh fruit salad – It’s a great way to pack a stress-busting nutritional punch before you even think about the morning traffic or open an email.
  • Add blueberries – You could also try topping breakfast cereal or yoghurt with a few fresh blueberries for a teatime treat. Blueberries are a great stress-busting fruit with a study by Louisiana State University finding that they could effectively be used to help treat post-traumatic stress. Another study by Florida State University found that eating just one cup of blueberries a day reduces blood pressure.
  • Have an avo sandwich for lunch – Pack carrot sticks and apple slices as workday snacks and for lunch, spread avocado on toast. Avocados are rich in mood-boosting folic acid and B vitamins which are known to help combat stress.
  • Have a stress-free supper – It’s quick and easy to throw together a salad to go along with supper and it’s a great way to make sure you get enough fresh veg in your diet.
  • Enjoy dessert – You’ve probably heard that desserts spells stressed backwards – no wonder we crave something sweet when we’re stressed. So go on and treat yourself to healthy homemade ice-cream made from a blend of frozen berries and fresh banana or a few blocks of dark chocolate to boost your mood, without tipping the scales.

Sources: Binghamton University, Florida State University Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center and University of Otago

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.