Eating well during stressful times
Quitting smoking can be a stressful time, and when you feel stressed, you may be more likely to succumb to the urge and smoke.
It’s important you do everything you can to keep that stress under control.
Eating well will contribute to your overall health and might help with managing stress. So, what foods can you eat to help you during stressful times?
Eating fish has a wide range of health benefits, even the Heart Foundation recommends you eat 2–3 serves a week.1 That’s because it’s packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, which along with being good for your heart, may help lift your mood and reduce inflammation – making it good for your body and your mind.1,2
Oily fish are the ones to look out for: salmon, blue-eye trevalla, blue mackerel, flathead, rainbow trout, canned salmon, sardines and some varieties of canned tuna.1
Fish-free ways to get your omega-3s
Not a huge fan of fish? You’re in luck. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in lots of other non-fishy foods.
You might want to try walnuts, flaxseeds (and flaxseed oil), chia seeds, pumpkin seeds or even tofu!2,3,4 All of these foods are rich in omega-3s and can help you manage the stress without sitting down to a salmon steak.
Kale, in all its superfood glory, Swiss chard (silverbeet) and spinach are great sources of magnesium,5 which can help to prevent anxiety. People who are deficient in magnesium often feel anxious and irritable, so make sure you keep your levels up.6
Black, green and white tea contain the antioxidant amino acid L-theanine, which can help reduce your body’s reaction to stress, helping to make the whole process of quitting calmer.7,8 Some studies have even shown that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine, like you find in tea, can help boost your mental performance.9
If you want to avoid caffeine though, you might want to try a cup of chamomile tea. Long used as a soothing drink before bed, chamomile tea can help to soothe stress during the day as well.10
Eating complex carbohydrates like wholegrains increases the amount of serotonin in your body, which has a calming and soothing effect, helping you fight stress.11 Brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and oats are all complex carbs, so they are digested slowly, leaving you fuller and calmer for longer.12 They’re also rich in B vitamins, which may help to prevent mood swings.13
Whoever said chocolate was bad for you? ‘Choc’-full of antioxidants, it can certainly help boost your mood.14 Dark chocolate has also been shown to lower blood pressure, which is good for your heart and your stress levels.15,16
It doesn’t stop there though, chocolate has high levels of magnesium, which, like a yummier version of those leafy greens, can help reduce anxiety.6,16
If you’re looking for an alternative sweet snack, then look no further than berries.
Berries of all kinds are amongst the world’s superfoods, and like chocolate, they are full of antioxidants to help fight the feelings of stress.17,18 Try snacking on blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or blackberries.
Like all things, moderation is the key. Try incorporating a variety of these foods into your daily eating (don’t just gorge yourself on chocolate) and see what a difference they can make.
It’s important to remember that food is not the only way to beat stress when you're going smoke-free. Make sure you maximise your chances of success by talking to your doctor and enlisting the support of your friends and family as well.