For many millennials, junk food is a quick-fix for stressful work days, impossible sales targets and staggering EMIs. And yet, while chips, chocolate and chaat can briefly satiate the soul and the taste buds, they can wreak havoc on your health, expanding your waistline, multiplying your fat deposits, causing insulin resistance and oxidative damage – a surefire formula for more stress. What a treat.

The Science Behind Stress

A study conducted by the University of California at San Francisco Department of Psychiatry found that while junk food alone was damaging enough, its effects were compounded by preexisting stress. The study revealed that high-stress women processed fats differently than their low-stress counterparts, harboring slower metabolic responses to junk food. Consequently, high-stress women were found to host faster fat cell growth.

Aside from slowing the body’s fat processing mechanism, ingredients like artificial colors and flavors, trans fats, sugar and monosodium glutamate can also trigger mood swings, negative emotions and irritability in stress-worn individuals, eclipsing the momentary comfort of junk food.

7 Superfoods That Relieve Stress
If you’re the kind that seeks comfort in food, say hello to these stress-relieving comfort foods that promise to cure your tension, regulate your blood sugar and give you a sense of Zen.
1. Milk
Warm milk is a potent charm for insomnia and restlessness, conjuring quality sleep in even the most reluctant sleepers. And there’s a scientific reason why. Milk brims with antioxidants, protein, potassium, calcium, and vitamins B2 and B12. Protein soothes the body by controlling blood pressure, while potassium tranquilizes muscles, relieving any underlying tension.
2. Nuts
Stress is like a living parasite that thrives on nutrients. The more of it we have, the fewer nutrients we have to ourselves. In particular, stress draws on B vitamin reserves, which are essential in activating the body’s stress response and regulating mood. Nuts like almonds and pistachios are golden in replenishing lost B vitamins. Not only that, but nuts are also rich in potassium, which plays a key role in lowering blood pressure and fortifying the heart.
3. Leafy Greens
If you’ve been missing out on leafy greens, it’s time to up your intake! Veggies like spinach, fenugreek, and mint are chock-full of folate, which is instrumental in producing mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. A study conducted in 2012 found that respondents who regularly consumed leafy greens were less likely to fall victim to depression.
4. Oranges
Oranges are known for their high vitamin C concentration, and for good reasons. Vitamin C is nature’s answer to stress medication. It lowers blood pressure and contains stress hormones like cortisol. The best part? You can make it a convenient part of your day. An orange at breakfast or a carton of juice at teatime can give you a zingy recharge, as well as a healthy boost of citrus.
5. Fermented Foods
Lovers of yogurt, dosa, idli, wada, kadhi, dhokla, gundruk and kanji, rejoice! If you’re fond of fermented fare, you have more going for you than you know. Fermented foods contain bacteria that clean your gut, and in turn, enhance mental health. Such bacteria can positively influence brain chemistry, keeping anxiety and depression at bay.
6. Dark Chocolate
For many of us, dark chocolate can be a godsend on gloomy days, lifting our mood and dissolving pain and depression. Of course, this feeling is rooted in a chemical shift called anandamide, a neurotransmitter that expels negative emotions. Other than anandamide, chocolate also contains other chemicals that evoke a sense of happiness.
7. Herbal Tea
Herbal teas like ginger, peppermint and chamomile can calm the digestive system, nervous system, and gut. A study by the University College London showed that tea drinkers exhibited lower cortisol levels than non-drinkers. If you’re the coffee-guzzling, tea-chugging kind, consider cutting out the caffeine and making a switch to herbal, decaf teas (caffeine can stimulate the stress response).

Give comfort foods a whole new meaning by stocking up on these 7 magic-fixes. So, the next time you need to binge, you can reach out for something that will treat your tension as much as your taste buds.

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