Who hasn’t reached for holiday cookies and candy instead of sitting down to lunch when on the go and focused on ticking off that to-do list?
The problem with this strategy is that the sugar rush ends on a crash several hours later, leaving one depleted and less able to handle stress. The same goes for coffee. Caffeine provides a short-term boost but can interfere with sleep. And high-fat, carb-heavy comfort foods like pizza or macaroni and cheese can leave one feeling lethargic.
Better bets include high-fiber, complex carbohydrate-rich foods like sweet potatoes, bean-based soups, or sautéed vegetables over brown rice. Since stress can weaken the immune system, a diet filled with antioxidant-rich produce provides the essential minerals and nutrients needed to keep energy levels consistent and sickness at bay.
“Antioxidants block cell-damaging free radicals, which are produced when the body is exposed to pollutants or breaks down food. A diet rich in antioxidants may help improve immune function,” says Pendergast. “Vitamin C, selenium, and beta carotene, in particular, are important for a healthy immune system. You can find vitamin C in foods like strawberries, oranges, Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, and broccoli. Selenium can be found in salmon, turkey, and tuna, and beta carotene can be found in squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, and kale.”