Maytinee Kramer/ Assistant Opinion Director
New Years is nearly upon us, and people all across the United States are busy shopping, cooking, and throwing parties, and while all of this equals fun, the holidays are still a stressful time of year. When times get stressful, many of us turn to “comfort foods,” from french fries to ice cream.
Research by the National Institute of Mental Health has suggested that certain foods can help reduce stress, but fatty and sugary comfort foods don’t actually do the trick. Rather, it’s superfoods.
According to the National Institutes of Health, superfoods are found to provide health benefits beyond basic nutrients and also work to boost glutathione in the body: an amino acid in charge of detoxification.
Stress expert Pete Sulack, author of “Unhealthy Anonymous,” a book about stress management and overall wellness, spoke to CNN about the benefits of eating superfoods to combat stress, nourish the body and combat stress.
“In animal studies, vitamin C fed to rats who were undergoing stress both prevented an increase in cortisol levels and … known signs of physical and/or emotional stress like losing body weight. Animals that didn’t receive the vitamin C had three times the level of cortisol in their bodies,” Sulack said.
Human studies, he said, have been done as well.
In addition, Kate Brookie, a PhD candidate studying nutritional psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, has been studying how these foods influence our moods.
“Whole foods, especially fruit and vegetables, provide your brain with the nutrients necessary for key processes involved in mood and well-being,” she said to CNN.
Such an example can be seen with vitamin C and B. Vitamin C is involved in producing dopamine, a feel-good hormone associated with motivation and drive while B vitamins and carbohydrates aid in the synthesis of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in our daily moods.
The top superfoods to take in when feeling anxiety or stress are kale, broccoli, leafy greens, celery, nuts, oily fish like salmon, fermented foods like kimchi, herbs and spices and organic berries high in vitamin C.
On the other hand, comfort foods such as macaroni and cheese, cookies, and cake offer some release due to brain chemicals that make us feel good for a while, but as Sulack noted, “in the long run, [they] cause the body more stress and the brain more distress.”
“One of the biggest causes of stress is your blood sugar. When blood sugar is between the glucose levels of 75 to 95 nanograms per deciliter, the body functions well. The more time you spend outside that range, the more your body feels stressed,” Sulack said.
Many people experience stress from being overwhelmed from the demands of their life and being unable to deal with everything that comes their way. That is why conscious healthy eating, especially superfoods, can help one be less stressed and more jolly for the holidays.
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Image retrieved from Flickr.