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Cure your cravings with stress-fighting foods

Do you snack to help relieve pressure? Discover which fruits, vegetables and herbs boost your energy, enhance your mood and even repair damage caused by stress.
/ Source: TODAY

Whether you're a stay at home mom, a busy executive, a student, or just one more person trying to put food on the table  for your family in a declining economy, getting through your day can be stressful. The fact is, too many Americans are time-starved and coping with that fact can be tricky if you don't have the right fuel in your body to do so calmly.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, over two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese and I would add to that, many of them eat mindlessly in order to cope with the pressures of the day. But stress in your life can manifest itself in your body in detrimental ways that compromise its very ability to function normally. Living with stress in your body has been linked to health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, peptic ulcer, asthma, and you guessed it—obesity.

But did you know that you can de-stress your life by practicing effective coping skills and by eating a low-fat, nutrient-dense diet? Here are my top food tips to help you cope:

The three nutrients that soothe your nerves
1. Eat more foods that contain Folic acid (also known as Folate), a B-vitamin which enhances your mood.

2. Increase foods that contain Vitamin B-12, which boosts your energy when blowing your top causes you to run out of steam.

3. Choose foods with greater amounts of antioxidants such as Vitamins C, E, and the mineral, selenium, which help to repair damage to cells caused by stress.

Foods to enjoy
Food sources & nutrients they contribute as stress reducers:

  • Include more turkey in your diet for its selenium content, which raises serotonin levels— a calming hormone. Try it in sandwiches, on salads, soups, or as snacks
  • Eat clams (in soups, spaghetti sauces, as appetizers) which are rich sources of Vitamin B12
  • Include more lentils (in soups, with whole grains such as quinoa—sounds like keen-wa) Lentils contain the B-vitamin, Folate
  • Try Chickpeas, also good source of Folate, on salads or in hummus, with baby carrots, bell peppers, cucumber slices, or on whole wheat crackers
  • Include black-eyed peas, which also contain Folate—add tomato, or shredded carrot, with basil for a tasty twist on a stress-buster dish. Serve them over a cup of brown rice and you've got a nutritious entree
  • Eat more papaya, which contributes more Vitamins A and C, and the B-vitamin Folate to your diet
  • Eat more red bell peppers which also contributes good amounts of Vitamins A and C and Folate. Try them roasted as a side dish, on salads, in sandwiches, soups, and in casseroles
  • Eat sunflower seeds, which add more Vitamin E and folate to your diet. Try them on salads, as snacks, even as ice cream toppings. Be sure to use dry-roasted seeds without salt, because the added sodium defeats the stress-fighting purpose

Stress-reducing herbs

  • Arugula, a peppery, nutty-tasting herb, is a good source of folate and great in salads, soups, or on pizzas and sandwiches
  • Try basil, a fragrant herb that's delicious in any tomato or seafood dish, or on chicken, turkey, in salads, and sandwich wraps. It calms your nerves by helping your body resist stress and by increasing physical endurance 

Foods to avoid
Caffeinated beverages: By all means, skip the morning latte. Caffeine, found in beverages such as coffee, tea and sodas and in chocolate, can cause anxiety and raise stress hormone levels.

Trans-fatty acids: Steer clear of trans-fatty acids found in baked goods such as cakes, pies, cookies, and other  boxed foods, which compromise the immune system and increase your risk of heart disease. Read food labels and avoid foods that contain hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Sugar: Skip sugar, which causes spikes in blood sugar levels, increasing insulin production and eventually causes your blood sugar levels to plummet. This process robs your adrenal glands of their ability to do their job—which is to regulate your stress hormones and to protect the body against stress and to help the thyroid gland to regulate your weight.

Alcohol: Put the cork back in the burgundy. Excessive alcohol consumption (it puts more sugar in your diet—known as a super sugar) and is harmful to adrenal glands.

Rovenia Brock, Ph.D., is the author of the best-selling book "Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets To Livin' Healthy." Find out more at