10 Foods to help reduce your stress
Published October 15, 2013
The foods we eat can have a significant impact on our stress levels for a number of reasons. Firstly, certain foods can reduce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, two hormones that can have negative effects on the body over time. Foods we find comforting can also increase levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that calms us down and makes us happy. Added to this, a healthy diet in general can enhance immunity and normalize blood pressure levels.1 Here are some of the top stress‐reducing foods around:
Stressful situations can cause your blood pressure to climb. Try reducing stress levels with deep breathing, meditation and daily exercise, and in the kitchen reach for avocados. This nutritious food contains high levels of potassium, an important mineral which helps to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. They may also help to ease cravings for something high in fat.2
Bananas contain tryptophan, an amino acid converted by the body into serotonin. Serotonin is a feel‐good brain chemical that helps to relieve stress. Bananas are also high in potassium and low in salt, which can assist in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.3
There’s nothing like a hot cup of tea when you’re feeling stressed. However, few of us would be able to say exactly why it is. Scientists believe it’s because tea contains an amino acid called theanine that helps to reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. This is thought to reduce your body’s response to stress and make you more relaxed.4
Fatty fish such as salmon, anchovies and tuna contain high levels of omega‐3 fatty acids.5 Scientists have known for many years about the beneficial effects of omega‐3 on heart health, but only recently they may have found the reason for it. Their findings show that volunteers who took fish oil supplements for several weeks had a blunted response to mental stress in several measurements of cardiovascular health including heart rate. These fatty acids have several other health benefits, including anti‐inflammatory and antioxidant effects.6
Milk contains protein, fat and carbohydrate as well as essential nutrients such as calcium, vitamin B2, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.7 B vitamins may be depleted during times of stress and deficiencies can cause nervousness, anxiety, headaches, confusion and insomnia8. All of these symptoms can make stress seem much worse.
Almonds are packed with nutrients such as vitamin E, B vitamins, calcium and magnesium. These are essential for maintaining a healthy immune system and energy levels, especially in times of stress. Eating a handful of almonds daily can also provide you with many stress protecting benefits, including supporting heart health and a healthy weight.9
Scientists have discovered that chocolate may not be as bad for you as was once thought. A recent study found that eating dark chocolate on a daily basis reduced levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol and catecholamines, in people feeling ‘stressed out’.10
Blueberries contain high amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants such as lutein and carotene. These antioxidants help to reduce cortisol levels, which gives blueberries (and other types of berries) stress relieving properties. They also contain vitamin B2, B3, B5 and folic acid. Add blueberries to yoghurt, cereal or simply enjoy them on their own, for an energy boosting, stress relieving snack.11
Beef contains zinc, iron and B vitamins, as well as omega‐3 fatty acids.12 These nutrients ensure a healthy immune system, optimal oxygen delivery to the cells and healthy energy production.13 These functions are of particular importance when dealing with stress. Remember to choose lean cuts to minimise your intake of saturated fat.
Strange as it may sound, vegetables like carrots may help to relieve stress simply because of their crispness. This is because chewing carrots can help to loosen up jaw muscles and relieve tension.14
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