It’s true what they say: food is medicine—well, certain foods are at least.
While adding certain things to your plate may actually exacerbate hard-to-handle emotions like stress and depression, other foods will help pull you through with ease—without sacrificing your waistline in the process.
Read on to learn what science-backed natural cures to keep on hand and which one to keep far, far away—so you’re prepared with the best “medicine” no matter which emotional hurdles come your way.
WHEN YOU’RE STRESSED
Low-Fat Plain Yogurt (8 oz) with Mixed Nuts (1 Tbsp)
|Saturated Fat||2.5 G|
Soda (12 oz)
|Saturated Fat||0 G|
We get it: When stressful situations strike, popping open a can of soda can make it seem like everything’s going to be alright. But we know better, and now you will too: People who drink just two cans of soda daily are three times more likely to be depressed and anxious, compared to those who drink fewer, a study from the American Journal of Public Health found. Plus, cola is filled with artificial dyes that are possible human carcinogens and sweeteners that can lead to weight gain and obesity-related diseases. Next time you’re pulling your hair out, mix a cup of lowfat, plain yogurt with a tablespoon of raw nuts. The duo serves up a hefty dose of lysine and arginine, amino acids that decreases feelings of anxiety and stress.
WHEN YOU’RE DEPRESSED
70% Dark Chocolate (1 oz)
|Saturated Fat||6.9 G|
White Chocolate (1 oz)
|Saturated Fat||5 G|
Although you may hear your sweet tooth calling when you’re feeling down in the dumps, it will serve you best to ignore it—especially if you’re craving white chocolate. White chocolate isn’t technically chocolate, since it contains no cocoa solids. That means it also lacks the ability to stimulate the euphoria-inducing chemicals that real chocolate does, especially serotonin. If you’re going to grab some chocolate, the darker the better. More cacao equals more happy chemicals and less sugar—which would only pull you down and make you frown.
WHEN YOU’RE FEELING FAT
Grilled Chicken Breast (3 oz)
|Saturated Fat||0.8 G|
Condensed Chicken Noodle Soup (1/2 cup)
|Saturated Fat||0.5 G|
While soup may seem like the perfect slimming pick when you’re feeling a bit paunchy, most varieties are loaded with sodium, which can lead to water retention and make your stomach feel like a beach ball. Instead of slurping away, make a meal featuring grilled chicken breasts or other lean meats. Their protein will boost satiety and help ward off those hard-to-ignore, diet-derailing cravings. Plus, high-protein meals help build fat-frying muscle mass and boost post-meal calorie burn, which will help you get that trim look you crave.
WHEN YOU’RE LOW ON ENERGY
Unsalted Raisin and Nut Trail Mix (1 oz)
|Saturated Fat||1 G|
Whole Milk Mocha Frappuccino with Whipped Cream (16 oz)
|Saturated Fat||9 G|
Although a Frap may seem like the perfect way to get through the 4 p.m. slump, the 61 grams of sugar (!!!) will cause your blood sugar to spike and, ultimately, send you crashing. Instead of heading to Starbucks, snack on a small handful of unsalted trail mix. The raisins provide potassium, which the body uses to convert sugar into energy, while the nuts stock your body with magnesium, a nutrient that wards off the production of lactic acid—the same a fatigue-inducing substance that you feel at the end of a long workout.
WHEN YOU CAN’T SLEEP
Air-Popped Popcorn (1 cup)
|Saturated Fat||0 G|
Warm 1% Milk (8 oz)
|Saturated Fat||1.7 G|
Forget what your mom told you about warm milk: This popular remedy for sleeplessness could be making matters worse. The protein in milk boosts alertness. Plus, unless it’s skim, the fat in milk slows down digestion and makes sleep more fitful. Instead, air-pop some popcorn half an hour before bedtime: The carbs will induce the creation serotonin, a neurochemical that makes you feel relaxed. Skip the butter—fat will slow the process of boosting serotonin levels.