10 Foods to Relieve Stress

Dark Green Leafy Vegetables like spinach, kale and collard greens are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine.

Are you feeling stressed out lately? And all you can think of is eating bags of chips and bowls of ice cream? If so, you are not alone! Nearly 40 percent of Americans report overeating or eating unhealthy foods due to stress [1]. Eating junk foods alone can cause serious health problems and, eating them while feeling stressed-out? Even more!

A study has shown that a group of chronically stressed women (those caring for a spouse or parent with dementia), eating foods high in unhealthy fats and sugar lead to concerning health effects, including a larger waistline, increased abdominal fat, more oxidative damage, and more insulin resistance [2]. As you can notice, food alone was not the problem. It was a combination of unhealthy foods and stress. As low-stress women who ate similar foods did not experience such profound changes over the course of the study.

How can you deal with stressful situations?

There are so many ways to deal with stress like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, walking and, other self-care options. But today, we will talk about the right foods that will help your body to deal with stress.

10 Foods to Relieve Stress

1- Green Leafy vegetables

Dark leafy greens like spinach are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. One 2012 study found people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression than those who ate the least [3].

2- Fermented Foods

The secret to improving your mental health and dealing with stress is in your gut, as unhealthy gut flora can have a detrimental impact your brain health, leading to issues like anxiety and depression. Beneficial bacteria have a direct effect on brain chemistry, transmitting mood and behavior-regulating signals to your brain via your vagus nerve .

For instance, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus was found to have a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior [4].

The best fermented foods for probiotics are fermented vegetables, like kim chi and sauerkraurt. Drinks like kombucha and yogurt can be high in sugar. If you choose yogurt, I highly recommend that you research first since, most of them are notoriously unhealthy, loaded with artificial sweeteners, colors, flavorings, and added sugar. Most importantly, the vast majority of commercial yogurts have clinically insignificant levels of beneficial bacteria. Try out different fermented foods and see which one works best for you.

3- Blueberries

Anthocyanins are the pigments that give berries like blueberries and blackberries their deep color. These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine, a chemical that is critical to coordination, memory function, and your mood. Also, as TIME reported [5]:

"Research has also shown that blueberry eaters experience a boost in natural killer cells, 'a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in immunity, critical for countering stress,' says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health's contributing nutrition editor."

4- Pistachios

According to a Penn State study, pistachios can reduce vascular stress. Pistachios have a high healthy fat content, lots of fiber and plenty of antioxidants to keep blood vessels open and relaxed during stressful moments.

5- Chia Seeds

Chia seeds and sunflower seeds contain tryptophan—an animo acid that triggers the release of serotonin in the brain and promotes feelings of calmness and sometimes even sleepiness. Some research has shown that it can help reduce anxiety.

6- Dark Chocolate

It is not a secret that chocolate is known to release those feel-good chemicals in our brains, right? Don't we all love the taste of chocolate? Plus, research has shown that it can actually help calm you down too. There's a chemical reason behind it called anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression.

Chocolate has even been referred to as "the new anti-anxiety drug." One study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology also revealed that drinking an antioxidant-rich chocolate drink equal to about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily felt calmer than those who did not [6].

7- Sunshine

Ok, I know sunshine is not a food but it is a must! A daily dose of sunshine might help stabilize your mood. Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. In 2006, scientists evaluated the effects of vitamin D on the mental health of 80 elderly patients and found those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who received healthy doses.[7]

Low vitamin D levels are also associated with an increased risk of panic disorders.[8] While you can get some vitamin D in foods like salmon, egg yolks, and mushrooms, your best solution for optimizing your levels is through sensible sun exposure.

8- Avocado

Avocados like bananas are rich in Potassium which naturally helps to lower blood pressure and just half of an avocado contains more of it than one medium banana. You’ll also be nourishing your body with healthy B-vitamins, monosaturated fat and fiber when you incorporate avocados into your diet.

9- Oranges

Oranges are full of vitamin C, which lowers cortisol and blood pressure while also giving the immune system a bit of a boost. According to the University of Maryland, large doses of vitamin C has been proven to reduce both physical and mental responses to stress.

10- Asparagus

Like green leafy vegetables, asparagus are rich in folate. Low levels of folate may be partly to blame for feeling more anxious and even a little depressed. Asparagus is very rich in folate and all you need is one cup of it to give you two-thirds of your recommended daily value.

So, next time you are going through a stressful situation, instead of reaching out for a bag of chips, I invite you to take a pause, count to 10 while taking few deep breaths. Then ask yourself, do I really need to take refuge through eating? Because, first of all, you are stressed out not hungry, right?

Visualize a mental picture of a scale. One side of the scale you place your "health" and on the other side of the scale you place "junk food". Which side weigh more? In other words, which one of them do you value most in your life? Your health or the temporary pleasure of eating junk foods?

#stressrelief #healthyfoods #healthylifestyle #balance #harmony #stressfreelife #foodsthatheal


[1] American Psychological Association, The Impact of Stress

[2] Psychoneuroendocrinology August 2014, Volume 46, Pages 14-22

[3] Journal of Affective Disorders, May 2012, Volume 138, Issue 3, Pages 473-478

[4] Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Sep 20;108(38):16050-5.

[5] TIME March 30, 2014

[6] Journal of Psychopharmacology May 2013

[7] American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry December 2006; 14(12): 1032-1040

[8] Clin Nutr. 2013 Oct;32(5):758-64.

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