Unfortunately, stress is a household staple. Even if you are lucky enough not to run into major forms of anxiety or depression, you probably know someone who is or has suffered from these mental health issues. Women, as a rule, fall victim to stress much more often than men do, whether it be due to physiological differences, societal pressures, the challenges they face, or the way they actually deal with stress. One of the notorious sources of stress that women encounter in life is menopause. (Hidden secret to women’s aging health.)
Some women suffer from a whole range of menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats. For others, empty nest syndrome coincides with this biological time of transition, exacerbating the problem. Some women who were already light sleepers run into serious sleeping issues as they hit menopause, and sleep deprivation goes hand in hand with irritability, anxiety, and a poor quality of life.
Menopause is not a disease, it’s a life change. As with any other change in life, you need to prepare and adjust accordingly, and diet is one adjustment needing to be made. Food and stress have always been linked together. Albeit usually unhealthy, comfort foods help us munch away those worries, while healthy eating gives our bodies more energy, translating into a better mood. In the wake of menopause, fine-tuning your diet and consuming food that is known to help ward off anxiety can help you resist stress and feel better in general.
Eating healthy to combat stress
Generally speaking, the more veggies you eat and the greater their variety, the less you’ll want the unhealthy stuff. Your body will be too busy processing all the good stuff to think about the bad. But don’t get too carried away with fresh produce—you still need protein to stay strong. Reliable sources of protein, such as lean meat, fish, eggs, and pulses will keep those hunger pangs in check. Ditch those processed packaged meals and forget about the existence of the ready-to-eat freezer section at the store—wholesome foods made at home are on your menu from now on. (Prolong stamina during periods of stress.)
Finally, shush your sweet-tooth cravings, as a sugar-laden diet can aggravate your body’s stress response. And if you’re going grocery shopping for the week, you may want to add the following five items to your list so that you can face the stress life throws at you in full gear:
Almonds: Rich in all-important vitamins and minerals, these nuts also offer a good supply of healthy monounsaturated fats and iron. This perfect on-the-go snack will energize you for the day ahead so that you’re strong enough to resist the day’s stresses.
Blueberries: Just add these must-eat berries to your morning oatmeal, yogurt, or salad to start your day off on a good note.
Dark chocolate: Stressed is desserts spelled backward, but not all desserts are created equal. We want those that give you the most benefits without the side effect of a sugar crash, and dark chocolate has you covered. Check that cocoa content though—the higher the percentage, the better. If you’re not used to dark chocolate, start at about 65 percent and gradually work your way up.
Oily fish: Fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are frequent staples on anti-stress diet lists, and for good reason. Some studies have shown that eating oily fish regularly can be effective in helping combat stress. Plus, oily fish is great for heart health (it lowers the risk of heart attack), which is particularly important for older women who become vulnerable to heart problems with age due to declining estrogen levels.
Water: Heading out? Don’t forget your water bottle! Dehydration is detrimental for your physical and mental well-being and, believe it or not, can promote anxiety. So, drink up your water and don’t forego other sources of liquid, such as soups, smoothies, and fresh fruits and veggies.
There’s always a choice: you can eat your stress away with a typical comfort food that may make you feel even worse, or you can make an effort and channel your cravings in the right direction. Coupled with plenty of sleep and stress relief techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and walking, a healthy diet can be a real stress buster.
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