Today’s Solutions: December 03, 2022

Jess Cording, R.D., CDN, a registered dietitian, developed a taste for butter after her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. “For some reason, one of the foods I really wanted to eat all the time was radishes cooked in butter,” she told MindBodyGreen. “It was the most random thing.” She goes on to say that it’s a common physiological response to crave high-fat, high-energy foods when stressed (hence her fondness for butter), and your body may physically crave certain nutrients when facing emotional hardship.

Cording’s newest book, The Farewell Tour: A Caregiver’s Guide to Stress Management, Sane Nutrition, and Better Sleep, is a great resource for families dealing with terminal illness—or anyone going through emotionally straining times. “Having a balance of protein, fat, [and] complex carbohydrates spread through the day, limiting sugar…those things were huge for me,” she says.

Below, you’ll read about the particular kinds of food that Cording says are the best to eat to help your body deal with stress.

Berries

“I really got into frozen berries,” Cording reveals. “I think I was just craving the antioxidants.” Berries are high in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants. A 2017 clinical trial discovered that the flavonoids (a type of polyphenol) in wild blueberries were linked to improved positive mood—both children and adults reported a better mood two hours after consumption.

Berries are also high in vitamin C, which can help to stabilize cortisol levels. Adrenal glands, in particular, have high concentrations of vitamin C, and eating these foods can feed the adrenal glands while keeping cortisol levels balanced.

Omega-3s

You may be aware of the brain benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, but did you know that eating enough omega-3 fatty acids can actually help stimulate your vagus nerve (which, in turn, helps you deal with stress better)? According to a 2011 scientific review published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, omega-3 fatty acids can help increase vagal tone and support a healthy parasympathetic nervous response by regulating heart rate variability (HRV). Cording suggests snacking on sardines as they are rich in omega-3s! 

If you eat the bones, sardines are also an excellent source of vitamin B12, minerals, and calcium. “Those omega-3s are so soothing to our nervous systems, and the olive oil, also, has so many antioxidants and healthy fats,” Cording adds.

Fermented foods

Due to the gut-brain connection, or gut-brain axis, any gut-healthy food is also brain-healthy. Cording prefers “a lot of fermented foods [and] prebiotic-rich foods” to help balance her stress levels because the gut directly affects the brain.

Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi, naturally contain probiotics and prebiotic fiber, and probiotics have been shown to improve people’s stress responses due to the aforementioned gut-brain axis.

Get curious about your cravings

When you are under emotional or physical stress, your body may crave specific nutrients. When cravings strike, don’t ignore them— if you want to indulge in a decadent treat occasionally, go ahead. Cording suggests going even further by getting curious: “I do encourage thinking about what specifically about that food is appealing,” she says. “Is it a texture, a flavor, or a nutrient that you desperately require? That can give you some ideas for healthier versions you could try to satisfy your craving.”

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