Eating lunch at your desk every day will stress you out, but what you’re shoveling into your mouth also plays a role. And stress is more damaging than you’d think when it comes to weight maintenance and loss, says James Duigan, Elle Macpherson’s personal trainer and author of the newly revised and updated book, The Clean & Lean Diet.
It’s a vicious cycle: Stress increases hormones in your body that cause you to store fat (especially around your belly), and the more stressed you are, the more you’ll crave stress-boosting foods, like sugary snacks, which will make you more stressed after you eat them.
The key is to focus on eating a balanced diet of clean, wholesome foods that deliver essential vitamins and minerals. (Oh, and don’t forget to sleep.) “Reducing stress is not only important for fat loss or maintaining a healthy weight, but it’s also important for a healthy, happy life,” Duigan says.
Here are five stress-reducing foods from the Clean & Lean Diet to get you started now… —Lisa Elaine Held
This fruit’s creamy texture can help satisfy cravings when your body is in a state of stress, Duigan says. “Plus, all the good fat and potassium they contain can lower your blood pressure (and therefore stress levels).”
Studies have shown that vitamin C helps the body deal with stress, and berries deliver a healthy dose. They also provide you with fiber, which helps regulate blood-sugar levels. And blood sugar is seriously linked to stress levels.
All dark green vegetables will fight stress by feeding your body its vitamins, and spinach is also particularly rich in magnesium. “Magnesium helps return your body to a calm state and improve your sleep,” Duigan says.
When our bodies are stressed and tired, they crave carbohydrates, since they deliver short-term energy boosts. “However, the sugar in carbs acts as a stress on the body,” Duigan explains. “Sweet potatoes provide a great alternative as they’re a healthy carbohydrate. They taste sweet, have a low glycemic index, and are full of fiber and nutrients.” Plus they’re pretty satisfying, no?
This one’s a no-brainer if you’ve ever been to a Thanksgiving dinner and felt like you immediately needed a nap. Turkey is full of L-tryptophan, an amino acid that releases serotonin into the body, creating a calming, sleep-inducing effect. Just don’t eat too much before a big presentation.