Updated: Aug 25
It’s an inevitability in life – suffering. Whether you are experiencing a loss of a family member, a hard break-up or even sadness from focusing of the cruelties of the world…
It’s okay to not be okay. The stress response we experience in hard times in our life are very noticeable. Many tend to feel a physical tension or sensation in their heart, and the tears can well up at any given moment. What’s important to understand in these moments is that one of the parts of our body that is also very affected by heartbreak is our gut, and this therefore affects how and what we eat. Maybe you are one of the many people who lose their appetite and can’t seem to stomach anything after a tragic event happens. Or maybe you do the opposite and eat everything and anything when you experience hardship. Luckily, the stress response is the same in the body and so are the ways that we can help to support and heal it.
Here are the foods (and drinks) you can consume to help heal from a broken heart:
Easily Digestible Carbs
Carbs that are easily digestible do many good things for a heartbroken body. First of all, carbs help to lower cortisol, our stress hormone, so that our other hormones like melatonin (our sleep hormone) and serotonin (our happy hormone) can rise. Tart cherry juice is especially good for raising melatonin and minimizing bodily stress. Other easily digestible carbs include fresh fruit, starchy vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes and butternut squash, and grains like rice and pasta, These foods are especially good for the first few days following a traumatic event when your stomach is in knots.
Berries and Dark Leafy Greens
Did you know when you think painful thoughts that those thoughts actually release pro-inflammatory chemicals into the body?
Yes, mental stress actually does lead to physical body inflammation. That’s why anti-oxidants like berries and dark leafy greens are so good for you once you can stomach them. Try a simple mixed green salad with berries and your favorite dressing (whatever it is!) for a mid-day snack to feel nourished and in good intentions for yourself.
It’s true, our gut makes a big impact on our mood! And fermented foods help to support the good gut bacteria that help to make serotonin that gets transported to the brain! Things like sauerkraut, kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and kimchi are great functional foods to help support a body that can “rest and digest” instead of fight or flight like in times of heartbreak.
Herbal Teas (iced or hot)
Herbal teas like chamomile, lavender, peppermint and lemon balm have been used for centuries to calm the nerves and relax the body.
These teas can be consumed either hot or brewed then cooled and over ice. This dietitian recommends adding either agave or honey for those easily digestible carbs that are also low glycemic, or if you are low carb, consider stevia or monkfruit.
I know it doesn’t always necessarily sound enticing to eat something fishy like salmon when you are going through a heartbreak, but the omega 3s in salmon are SO good for your mental health. Multiple studies have shown that omega 3s (which are rich in fatty fish, especially salmon) have been shown to improve measures in subject that are associated with depression.
The easiest way to get these in my recommendation is to get a big filet of salmon, cook it on the grill or in the oven at 375 degrees F for 35-45 minutes, and then eat a little piece of that filet daily until it is gone. Keep in mind salmon should be cooked the same day it is bought or freeze and thaw it if that is not an option. It should stay safe in the fridge fully cooked for up to 3 days.
Don’t forget, when your appetite is suppressed and you are feeling down, it is OKAY to just focus on the psychological aspect of food and eat foods that just sound appealing to you – no matter what they are. It is even worse to not eat at all and deplete your body than to consume lower amounts of the nutrients that keep up your energy and strength.
Fun foods are an excellent choice here if they are calling to you. Some GREAT examples of funner foods to eat when healing from a broken heart are nut butters (this nutritionist likes Skippy Natural) and dark chocolate. I will take a tablespoon of peanut butter and a few squares of dark chocolate as a snack and feel great about it because of the vitamin E, polyphenols flavanols, and healthy fats!
Remember, it is okay to not be okay. A heart break activates our body’s stress response which can significantly suppress our appetite and/or activate stress eating responses. By creating an intention to nourish our bodies using food, we create a space for our body to heal. Take your time, allow yourself to feel your emotions fully without trying to hold them back. The more compassion you give yourself to feel your feelings in their entirety, the better you can move through your emotions in a smoother and more peaceful way.