Everyday common foods that help reduce stress

By: Bel Marra Health | Healthy Eating | Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 05:05 AM

foods-to-reduce-stressIn our day to day lives, we all encounter some level of stress. Everyone has their own way to deal with this stress, like going for a walk, meditating or eating. Oftentimes eating can become comforting through times of high stress, but this, unfortunately, is not the best coping mechanism.

When we are put under stress our bodies release hormones to cope, often called the “fight-or-flight” response. This refers to sticking through the stressful challenge or ditching it all together. Once the situation is over, our bodies return to their normal state, but if someone is overly stressed, they continue to stay in that stressed state. Without proper ways to manage stress, our bodies can stay on high alert and develop serious health issues.

As we mentioned, many people find stress management through eating which in itself can lead to health concerns like obesity and diabetes. Instead of eating food to cope with stress, a better way is to enjoy the right, healthy foods to reduce stress – and keep stress-eating out of the picture.

Foods to reduce stress and anxiety

There are an abundance of healthy foods to reduce stress. Not only are these great foods to reduce stress and anxiety, but they also offer many other benefits to your overall health. So instead of reaching for potato chips, chocolate or greasy French fries, try these options. Hands down, they are the best foods to fight stress.

Avocado: When it comes to overall healthy foods, avocado reigns supreme. This superfood is loaded with health benefits and definitely makes the list for foods to reduce stress and anxiety.

For starters, avocados contain lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E and folate. Folate, in particular, is useful to reduce stress. Folate helps the creation of dopamine which is responsible for feeling pleasure. More pleasure feelings, less stressful ones. Avocados also contain many B vitamins which top the list for vitamins helpful for the body to reduce stress. When we are stressed, we deplete our levels of B vitamins. We need those B vitamins for the production of serotonin and other calming effects. If we can’t calm down, we’ll continue to be stressed out only further, hurting our health.

Berries: Blue, black or red, berries are very much stress free foods. As you may already know, berries bring along with them many antioxidants, which help fight the free radicals that can damage the body. They also contain other vitamins helpful in reducing stress like vitamin C. In a German study, 120 people were asked to give a public speech followed by math questions. Some of these volunteers were given vitamin C where the others were not. What the researchers found were those participants who had the boost of vitamin C had lower blood pressure and lower cortisol after the stressful situations.

Other benefits of vitamin C? It works to boost your immune system that comes under attack when it’s exposed to too much cortisol. So why not enjoy a handful freshly-picked or blended in your smoothie? You’ll feel much calmer once you do.

Nuts: Nuts are truly a superfood and so it’s no surprise they’re also one of the best foods to fight stress. The better part is you have such variety, you’ll never have to be bored when snacking. Almonds, cashews and walnuts are all healthy foods to reduce stress. They all work to maintain healthy cortisol in the body. In particular, if you are looking for foods to reduce stress and anxiety, stick with cashews. Cashews are packed with zinc, and studies have shown that low levels of zinc have been linked to depression and anxiety.

Walnuts are also good for brain health because of their alpha-linolenic content, an essential omega-3 fatty acid. Tufts University examined animals’ consumption of walnuts and found reversed signs of brain aging. Lastly, these nuts also contain essential vitamins used to boost the immune system which may be weakened due to stress.

Leafy greens: Leafy greens should be a staple within any diet. Not only do they contain vitamins helpful in reducing stress, but they are also healthy foods to reduce stress. We need all the help we can get. Stress can diminish our magnesium levels. Magnesium is essential as it helps the production of GABA – a neurotransmitter which controls fear and anxiety – and dopamine, another feel-good hormone. Since leafy greens provide magnesium, they are great foods to reduce stress and anxiety.

Magnesium deficiency can also cause headaches, muscle cramps and fatigue, so boosting your magnesium levels can make you feel more relaxed and less tense, so you’re able to combat stress much easier. Try stress free foods like spinach, kale and chard as healthy options.

Tea: At the end of a long stressful day, a glass of wine may be all you’re thinking about. But tea should really be your go-to. In particular, chamomile or green tea. Research continues to grow when it comes to chamomile. The University of Pennsylvania tested chamomile supplements on 57 participants over an eight-week period. They found a significant drop in stress symptoms over that time. Furthermore, the University of Maryland Medical Center revealed that chamomile can help calm nerves and promote sleep. Better sleep and calmer nerves directly translate to a less-stressed body, making chamomile part of the foods to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Green tea, although caffeinated, is also a good option for reducing stress. It contains an amino acid called theanine which researchers at the University of Illinois praise for its ability to boost mental performance. A focused mind is useful in tackling stressful situations. So instead of reaching for a bottle of alcohol, reach for a mug and steep some warm, calming tea.

Salmon: When combatting stress, omega-3 is your best defense. Omega-3 is easy to incorporate into your diet as most fish contain the essential fatty acid. Salmon is also beneficial because it is packed with protein, which is good for balancing hormones and maintaining normal cortisol levels.

The University of Ohio researched the benefits of omega-3 in helping to relieve stress and found that 2.5 grams of omega-3s – 12 to 15 ounces of salmon – reduces stress and anxiety by up to 20 percent. So why not enjoy more fish on a weekly basis and feel calm and far less anxious?

Turkey: Ever notice that after enjoying a holiday turkey you’re relaxed and ready to nap? That’s the reason you may want to enjoy more turkey to combat stress. Turkey contains L-tryptophan, an amino acid which triggers serotonin. When this happens, we feel calm and relaxed.

It may be a good idea to not just save turkey for the holidays and incorporate it more often in your diet. You don’t have to cook an entire bird! And you’ll appreciate its calming effects to fight and reduce stress.

Stress management made simple through healthy eating

Although it may seem like the best idea to reach for that chocolate bar, glass of alcohol or bag of chips, these are all foods which will only keep your body in a stressed-out state. Enjoying calming foods packed with vitamins helpful in reducing stress are better options.

Eating these foods daily can also allow your body to be better prepared when stressful events occur. And you’ll bounce back much quicker as well. So if you’ve been finding you’re stressed out, fatigued and not able to do the things you love, eat some of these best foods to fight stress to improve your overall well-being. Your body will thank you.

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