Diet Stress ConnectionLife in the fast lane sometimes steers us into the fast lane of a drive-thru where it’s hard to resist the burger, fries, milk shake or the double caramel macchiato calling our name. 

It’s convenient, it’s relatively cheap and it frees us from the stress of cooking at home and the drudgery of cleaning up.

Consuming foods or drinks that comfort us is a common human response to stress. However, some of our “comfort foods” can actually have the opposite effect. Foods that are processed and high in fat or sugar, and drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol can temporarily calm us, but over time they may actually add to our stress level.

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Here are some healthier choices to turn to next time you’re feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders.

• Dark green, leafy vegetables produce dopamine, a “feel good” brain chemical. These greens also contain vitamin B and antioxidants, which can help stabilize our mood and combat free radicals that our bodies release in response to stress. Whole grains, beans and seeds are other great sources of vitamin B and antioxidants.

• Nuts are bursting with stress-busting antioxidants. Remember to keep the serving sizes small.

• The complex carbohydrates found in oatmeal make for an excellent bowl of calmness. The carbs produce serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter known for its calming effect.

• Protein and calcium-rich yogurt can be a real stress stopper. Add some fresh fruit to sweeten it if you like.

• Last and certainly not least is dark chocolate, a super food when it comes to keeping stress at bay. Just keep it to one ounce, two to three times per week.

Tracy Garrett - Sun Health Center For Health & WellnessTracy Garrett is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Sun Health Center for Health & Wellbeing in Surprise, AZ. For information call 623-832-WELL (9355) or visit 

This information is provided by health professionals at the Sun Health Center for Health and Wellbeing. It should not be substituted for medical advice from your physician. If you have
a question you’d like to submit for consideration, email


(Originally published July 31, 2015; last updated Jan. 12, 2019.)

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