Stress-Busting Snacks

The Saturday Early Show this weekend is focusing on life in New Orleans a year after Hurricane Katrina. It makes sense that life continues to be very stressful for residents of the Big Easy, and when stress build up, a lot of us turn to comfort foods.

The problem is that most of these foods are very unhealthy. Dr. Mallika Marshall suggests alternatives that may even help decrease your stress levels.

Stress can make people feel insecure and unsure of the future. Many people turn to so-called "comfort foods" that remind them of their childhood or of a time when their lives were much less complicated. Many times, that means foods like macaroni and cheese, meat and potatoes, chocolate, chips or ice cream.

But these yummy foods can be loaded with calories, fat, sugar, and salt. In the short run, they may make us feel better. But in the long run, they can be very unhealthy. So it's OK to turn to these foods every now and then, but there have to be some healthier alternatives.

Marshall says that the foods listed below contain vitamins and nutrients that some studies have suggested can help relieve stress. Not everyone agrees with these studies, she cautions, but the good thing about these foods is that whether they relieve stress or not, they are good for you for other reasons, too.

  • Almonds: A lot of people feel stressed on the job and quickly turn to the office candy dish or cookie stash to ease their anxiety. Instead, keep a container of almonds in your desk, so that instead of reaching for the unhealthy snacks, you reach for them instead. Almonds are high in B vitamins, zinc and vitamin E, which may all help reduce stress. They also contain antioxidants and good heart-healthy fats.
  • Blueberries: If nuts aren't your thing, try some blueberries. They also are easy to snack on and are high in vitamin C, which may help reduce stress. Blueberries also are high in anti-oxidants and fiber which can help fight stomach cramps which some people get when they get stressed out.
  • Some cereals: You want to get a cereal that's high in fiber and fortified with B vitamins, such as folic acid.
  • Melons and cottage cheese: Melons are high in vitamin C, which again may help fight stress. Cottage cheese is good because it's packed with several B vitamins. You can eat them together. But get low-fat cottage cheese so you don't eat too many calories.
  • Fish: Not only is fish a stressbuster, it's also healthy for your brain and for your heart. Fish is high in several B vitamins and contains omega-3 fatty acids. For lunch, consider having a tuna fish sandwich or tuna salad. But make sure it's not loaded with too much mayonnaise. Also, try some salmon for dinner.