It might be easy to reach for junk food when you’re stressed, but we all know eating half a jar of nut butter or multiple servings of vegan cookies doesn’t really make you feel any better in the long run. If anything, it leaves you with a tummy ache, food guilt, and you’re still left to deal with the stress that led you to eat the junk food in the first place.
One of the best things about nutritious foods is that though they may seem boring to some, they’re actually packed with stress-fighting vitamins and minerals. I realize after you’ve had a bad day at the office or a tiff with your best friend that kale just dosen’t sound as comforting as half a sleeve of Oreo’s or a carton of vegan ice cream, but it’s one of the many healthy vegan comfort foods that can eliminate stress and junk food cravings, not to mention it won’t leave you sick afterwards.
If you’re dealing with stress in your life, start combating it with what you put in your mouth. While eating can’t take away your problems, nourishing yourself with healthy vegan comfort foods can completely change the way your mind and body feels on a 24-hour basis.
1. Leafy Greens
Kale is a fantastic source of magnesium, which quells your nerves and helps beat stress. Other great leafy greens to eat are spinach, romaine, collards, and arugula. Leafy greens can help alkalize the body and reduce inflammation that stress can cause. Eat them, juice them, or blend them. No matter how you eat them, leafy greens will bring you back to an even keel and eliminate body symptoms that come from stress such as headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and jittery nerves.
Bananas are nature’s perfect fast food snack, and just having one a day is an easy way to keep stress at bay around the clock. Bananas are a unique fruit, to say the least. They’re jam packed with magnesium to conquer frayed nerves and stress headaches, they’re a great source of Vitamin B6 that helps relieve tension and stress, and best of all, their decent fiber content helps slow down their sugars so they shouldn’t cause your blood sugar to spike. The best part is, they’re easy to throw in your bag or keep at the office, so you always have one on hand. Check out these banana recipes.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Had a long day at work and feeling tempted to eat junk? Nix that idea and instead bake up a sweet potato instead. Sweet potatoes are an amazing little veggie. They’re a fantastic source of magnesium, Vitamin B6, and the amino acid trytophan. Tryptophan helps the body produce serotonin, which helps improve your mood, sleep, and normalize your appetite. Sweet potatoes have also been found to reduce cravings for sweets and they have a low-glycemic index. Last but not least, they’re a great source of Vitamin C, which also reduces stress and inflammation in the body. Try these Sweet Potato and Kale Patties and this Spicy Sweet Potato Salad.
Oatmeal makes a fantastic way to start your day because it’s one of the best sources of carbohydrates that can improve your mood. Oatmeal is a top source of magnesium, potassium, fiber, protein, and it’s very low on the glycemic index compared to other grains like rice and wheat. Just be sure to nix the instant kind at the store since it usually has added sugar (which you’ll definitely want to avoid when you’re stressed.)
One of the best ways to keep oatmeal handy if you’re constantly on the go is to make up a couple batches at one time and leave them in your fridge in to-go containers. Then you can easily grab one out of the fridge to eat as is or take with you to reheat at the office if needed. You can also make small to-go baggies of dry oats with spices of your choice with carry with you. Then you can just mix with hot water in a cup or bowl on the go for a healthy breakfast or snack. You can even cook oatmeal savory style for lunch or dinner if you don’t enjoy it for breakfast too.
Raw cacao is one of the best foods to fight stress and it’s definitely a comfort food loved by many. I suggest turning to one or two tablespoons of cacao powder instead of processed chocolate for two reasons. One, doesn’t contain added sugar and added fats like processed dark chocolate and secondly, it’s packed with more magnesium, iron, zinc, and B vitamins than processed chocolate is. All of those nutrients help conquer stress and relieve stress symptoms in the body such as body pain, inflammation, headaches and overall tension. You can either carry some raw cacao nibs with you or use the powder to make a smoothie, latte, pudding, or just add it to a glass of almond milk for a healthy version of chocolate milk.
Believe it or not, broccoli is a fantastic stress-fighting food. It’s packed with two nutrients that help reduce stress almost immediately: Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C. Broccoli is also a decent source of protein so it helps optimize amino acid functions in the body to reduce stress even further. Have a serving of broccoli at lunch or dinner and stay on top of stress before it even hits.
While I don’t suggest turning to caffeine all day, a cup or two of coffee each morning is a great way to reduce morning jitters and eliminate stress. To get the benefits of the amazing coffee bean, buy an organic source so you don’t expose yourself to unnecessary pesticides and so you get the most nutrition possible from your coffee. Coffee is a fantastic source of magnesium and B vitamins. While too much isn’t a good thing, a small amount is actually incredibly healthy for you. Coffee has been found to reduce insulin in the body, fight type 2 diabetes, aid in mental focus, and possibly help prevent liver cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Make a vegan latte and literally sip your stress away.
Have an ounce of raw almonds next time you’re stressed and you’re likely to feel better in no time. Almonds are packed with magnesium, B vitamins, and protein that all help nix cravings and stress in just a couple bites. Plus, they have a nice, sweet crunchy texture that you won’t get from diving into the nut butter jar with a spoon, which is also harder to quit eating. Carry small baggies of almonds with you in your purse or buy the individual packets of natural almonds at the store to keep on hand for convenience. Check out this article on How to Make Almond Milk.
Pumpkin and squash varieties such as kabocha, acorn, butternut, spaghetti, zucchini, and yellow squash are all packed with potassium, Vitamin B6, and trytophan to calm your nerves and help relieve tension quickly. They’re also full of water to keep you hydrated which is important when you’re stressed. The body can become dehydrated when you’re stressed, which may lead to headaches, constipation, nervousness and more. Eating water rich foods is a fantastic way to eat your nutrients and prevent dehydration all in one step.
Avocados are a great source of nutrients such as: healthy fats, Vitamin B6, tryptophan, protein, Vitamin E, and magnesium. Having 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado everyday with lunch is an easy way to stay on top of stress and prevent cravings during the day. Avocados are incredibly filling and full of fiber so they help combat the need to eat sweets or junk food. Feel free to use them in vegan tacos, a dessert or a smoothie if you need a bit of variety as well.
Other great vegan foods to eat when you’re stress include superfoods, all vegetables, quinoa, chickpeas, cashews, and raw coconut, along with many more. Remember, the more nutrients you flood your body with, the better off you’ll be able to fight stress and cravings on a regular basis.
What’s your favorite healthy vegan comfort food to eat when you’re stressed?
Image source: Pomegranate Oatmeal Burst