Stress relieving foods
Life can be really demanding and yes, stressful. While most people eat to reduce stress, others eat because of stress (stress eating). Stress can cause unhealthy eating habits and poor food choices, which can further lead to anxiety, poor health, and even weight gain.
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients can help your body manage the physiological and biological responses caused by stress. When we are stressed, we divert to food just because it is enjoyable, distracting, and has a good effect on us.
For instance, most people delve into a bucket of ice-cream or chicken casserole when stressed- these foods are tasty, sweet, and indulging. But this could make matters worse and have a negative impact on your health and stress levels.
The physiological responses that come with stress eating include an increase in blood sugar level, muscle tension, racing heart, upset stomach, appetite changes, as a result of the stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline) that flows through your body system.
Biological responses to stress can have their own bad side. While the flight or fight response helps alert our body to danger, it could have a bad toll on our stress levels. This is because stress can cause the secretion of glucocorticoids. And these hormones can restore the energy lost during your stress encounter (whether it’s running, fixing a project before a deadline, family) by increasing cravings for junk and increasing fat stores.
This can cause hunger pangs in few minutes and further lead to overeating, weight gain, and a spike in stress levels. So, if you are on a weight loss goal or trying to maintain a healthy weight, instead of emotional or stress eating, eat good foods rich in nutrients that wouldn’t affect your waistline.
It is best to pay attention to what you eat even when really stressed. According to a review, stress increases the need for certain nutrients such as vitamins B, C, magnesium, and selenium.
Unhealthy eating habits can increase the risk of health complications and cause your stress levels to become very high. Read on to know more about healthy, natural, and stress-relieving foods you can enjoy. These foods can also refuel, nourish your body and also keep the feelings of frustration at bay.
Try these healthy foods instead of a cup of coffee, a glass of red wine, or a pint of ice-cream.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal contains a serotonin boost- a neurotransmitter that regulates the mood. Oatmeal contains carbs, and carbs play a vital role in serotonin makeup.
Whole grains are slow-digesting complex carbs that can stabilize blood sugar levels instead of the usual ups, downs, and fluctuations. It is best to grab a bowl of oatmeal when you feel stressed and need a mood booster.
In addition, avoid refined carbs like cakes, white bread, and cookies as they can cause spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. Instead, opt for complex carbs like oats and other whole grains since they contain fiber and can cause slow digestion and also less impact on your blood sugar level.
The vitamin B content in oatmeal can increase alertness and focus. If you need food excellent in fiber, carbs, and vitamins, oatmeal can be your go-to. You can prepare an overnight oat if you want to reduce stress the next morning
- Avocados: avocados are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats, phytochemicals, fiber, and vital nutrients. The healthy fats present in avocados can reduce stress, boost alertness and focus and improve mood.
Also, avocados contain vitamin B6, a nutrient that can reduce feelings of anxiety and maintain the proper functioning of the nervous system.
Whether for guacamole or sandwiches, avocados should be on your list of stress relief foods.
- Fatty foods: mackerel, lake trout, salmon, sardines, herring, tuna belong to this class of fish. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D which can help improve mood and reduce stress levels.
When we are stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released which can cause both physiological and biological responses. Thanks to omega-3 fatty acids, these responses can be combated.
According to the Harvard health blog, omega-3s can ease depression and reduce anxiety because the nutrients present interacts easily with brain molecules majorly responsible for our mood.
In addition, omega-3s can protect against cardiovascular diseases and keep the heart functioning at its best.
Low omega-3s have been linked to an increase in anxiety and depression in Western populations, the same goes for Vitamin D.
To reap the benefits of mood-boosting omega-3s, eat at least 3.5 ounces of fatty fish twice a day.
Not most people love to fish even when they are aware of its health benefits. Other foods to substitute for fatty fish include seeds (chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds), nuts(walnuts), plant oils (soybean, canola oil), dietary supplements like fish oil, or even fortified foods (eggs, milk, instant formulas, soybean beverages.
Therefore, both omega-3s and vitamin D are essential for stress regulation, mental health, and improve mood.
- Nuts: nuts are superfoods that can relieve stress and energize your body. Nuts especially almonds are loaded with magnesium. Inability to manage stress and physiological effects like insomnia, fatigue, depression, and loss of appetite is associated with magnesium deficiency.
Research has found that magnesium may help with brain functions that reduce stress and anxiety. By affecting the hypothalamus (a part of the brain), it also affects the adrenal and pituitary glands. These glands are responsible for stress responses.
Nuts also contain non-nutrient bioactive including polyphenols, flavonoids, and antioxidants that can help relieve and manage stress levels. Eating nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts can boost your mood and reduce stress levels.
- Eggs: Eggs are packed with minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants- all of which can boost stress responses. Animal studies show that choline, a nutrient in abundance in whole eggs, may aid stress response and improve mood.
Also, eggs are rich in vitamin D which can increase levels of feel-good hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.
- Dark chocolate: Just indulging in dark chocolate can relieve stress. And we don’t mean to say white chocolate, just dark. Dark chocolates can have a chemical and emotional impact on stress.
According to a study, dark chocolate contains antioxidants that reduce stress by lowering stress level hormones. It was confirmed in participants who ate 15 ounces of dark chocolate per day for 2 weeks.
When opting for dark chocolates, choose high-quality dark chocolates with no additives and also check the label for ingredients such as cocoa butter, cane sugar, and cacao beans.
- Beans: beans contain enough magnesium to reduce stress levels. Low magnesium is linked to elevated c-reactive protein levels- and more people are likely to have it.
C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation produced by the liver. And stressful events can increase levels of c-reactive protein.
According to research, it was discovered that elevated c-reactive counts are associated with higher stress levels, greater risk for depression, and mental health disorders.
Magnesium can also regulate the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and also help manage blood pressure.
Beans are also a fiber-rich food, and fiber-rich foods are friendly for your gut and can help relieve stress. According to a review, a diet rich in fiber may be linked with reduced anxiety, depression, and stress levels.
- Warm mik: for a good quality sleep at night, warm milk is one of the perfect drinks rather than coffee or alcohol. Sipping a glass of warm milk is indulging, relaxing and is a signaler for bedtime.
According to research, warm milk can promote a relaxing effect on the body and even the brain. It is best to drink a soothing beverage like warm milk to induce and promote sleep other than watching a violent television show that sends you straight to bed, according to this research.
Milk also contains calcium and vitamin D that can promote all-around feelings of relaxation including premenstrual syndrome and muscle contraction. According to a study, it was found that both calcium and vitamin D can ease the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Plus, milk contains vitamin B6 that can boost serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood and makes you feel good. In addition, this comfort food can also lower blood pressure.
While calcium majorly helps to reduce stress amongst the other nutrients contained in milk, if you prefer other diary sources to milk, try yogurt and cheese.
Most people are lactose intolerant, we recommend broccoli, salmon, sunflower seeds, and kale since they are also excellent sources of calcium.
- Chamomile tea: chamomile is a strong medicinal herb that has been in use long before now to reduce stress naturally. Both its tea and extract have been shown to induce quality sleep and reduce feelings/symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Sitting and sipping a cup of warm chamomile tea slowly can calm your mind. Chamomile tea does not contain any trace of caffeine, and so it won’t cause a spike in anxiety levels.
Plus, it increases two mood-boosting and feel-good hormones, serotonin, and melatonin. It can also relieve tension by relaxing muscles and soothing headaches associated with stress and anxiety.
- Citrus fruit and strawberries: citrus fruits and strawberries are a powerhouse of vitamin C. High levels of vitamin C can help reduce stress levels. According to a study, vitamin C reduced stress levels in participants who took 500mg per day and also pointed to possible anxiety prevention.
High doses of vitamin C can actually lower blood pressure which spikes during stress encounters and can also promote relaxation.
Also, if you are craving something sweet for your tooth, strawberries are a great option. Chocolate and candies contain added sugars that can skyrocket your blood sugar levels.
Strawberry slices are good sources of natural sugars that can control blood pressure and supply a good dose of vitamin C.
Strawberries are also high in flavonoids that have potent inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. This means they may help reduce inflammation and also protect cells from damage, especially when they are stress-related.
To get a good dose of vitamin C, eat fruits like strawberries, oranges, blueberries, grapefruits, pineapple, mango, and papaya.
- Herbal tea: drinking a cup of herbal tea can help promote feelings of calmness, warmth, and relaxation. The action of sipping a warm beverage increases feelings of interpersonal warmth, concentration, and friendliness, according to research.
While herbs such as valerian root, chamomile, and lavender induce feelings of relaxation and calmness, sipping a warm drink has its own soothing effect.
Herbal tea is great for relaxation but if you need a little caffeine boost, green tea is okay. The caffeine content in green tea can promote alertness, cognitive function, suppress neuroinflammation, and boost overall neurological health. This is because caffeine contains lots of flavonoids.
Flavonoids are good for you and also available in dark chocolates and citrus fruits. If you need to sleep properly at night after the day’s stress, avoid caffeine and opt for herbal tea.
Herbal tea contains ingredients like catechins, flavonoids, and polyphenols that can affect the neurotransmitters found in the brain, positively.
- Sweet potatoes: sweet potatoes contain complex carbs- which is an excellent carb choice. This whole food is filled with nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium for better stress responses.
According to a study, sweet potatoes can lower levels of stress hormones including cortisol. Also, sweet potatoes are high in fiber and fiber foods can boost the production of serotonin.
Since sweet potatoes are also sweet, they can offset cravings for junk which can cause a crash in blood sugar levels.
- Broccoli: Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable known for various health benefits such as reducing the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, depression, and mental health disorders.
Broccoli is packed with magnesium, folate, and vitamin C. And all these nutrients have been shown to improve stress responses, combat depressive symptoms, and regulate mood.
Folic acid deficiency can reduce the secretion of serotonin and dopamine, two feel-good hormones.
Sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has neuroprotective properties is found in abundance in broccoli. This compound may also offer calming and antidepressant effects according to studies.
In addition, vitamin B6 is also found in broccoli. A higher dose of vitamin B6 is linked to a lower risk of depression and anxiety in women, according to a study.
Other rich sources of vitamin C, folate, and magnesium are found in lentils, spinach, beans, chickpeas, and avocados.
Different foods contain nutrients that reduce stress levels but remember that some foods can increase stress levels. When stressed, avoid foods like pretzels, ice-cream, canned soup, diet soda, red wine, and more. Rather, reach for foods such as the ones stated in this article.
These stress relieving foods can reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure , sooth your muscles and entire body and increase the secretion of feel-good hormones.