11 Stress-Reducing Foods

Vitamin C-packed oranges relieve stress by decreasing cortisol levels while strengthening your immune system. (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

When you think of “comfort food,” you probably think of a familiar favorite dish. But studies show that some foods can bring true comfort by reducing your stress levels. Here are 11 of them (via WebMD):

  1. Complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates stimulate the brain to make more serotonin. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it’s best to eat complex carbs because they are digested more slowly. Good options include whole-grain breakfast cereals, breads, pastas and steel-cut oatmeal. Complex carbs can also help you feel balanced by stabilizing blood sugar levels.
  2. Oranges. Oranges are packed with vitamin C, which can decrease stress hormone levels (and in turn decrease blood pressure) while strengthening the immune system.
  3. Spinach. Spinach is rich in magnesium, deficiencies of which may trigger headaches and fatigue, compounding the effects of stress. Other good magnesium sources include cooked soybeans, salmon, or other green leafy vegetables.
  4. Fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon and tuna, can prevent stress hormone surges and may defend against heart disease and depression. For best results, eat three ounces of fatty fish at least twice a week.
  5. Black tea. Recent research suggests that drinking black tea could help you recover from stressful events more quickly by working to lower your cortisol levels.
  6. Pistachios. Pistachios are good sources of healthy fats, and eating them daily can help lower your cholesterol, ease arterial inflammation in your heart, reduce your risk of diabetes and defend against the effects of stress. With these calorie-dense snacks, just remember that a little goes a long way.
  7. Avocados. Potassium is key to reducing blood pressure, and half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana. Try guacamole made from avocado, or slice an avocado in half and enjoy plain or with a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.
  8. Almonds. Almonds are filled with vitamin E to bolster the immune system, and B vitamins, which can boost your resiliency during bouts of stress such as depression. Snack on a quarter of a cup each day.
  9. Raw veggies. Crunchy raw vegetables are not only healthy, they can also help ease stress in a purely mechanical way. Munching celery or carrot sticks helps release a clenched jaw that can come as a side effect of stress, relieving tension.
  10. Bedtime snack. Eating carbohydrates at bedtime can speed the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which helps you sleep better. Since heavy meals before bed can trigger heartburn, stick to something light, such as toast and jam or a small bowl of cereal and milk. For other foods to eat and avoid for a good night’s sleep, read our recent post.
  11. Skim or low-fat milk. Another bedtime stress-buster is the classic glass of warm milk. Research shows that calcium eases anxiety and mood swings linked to PMS, and drinking a warm beverage can promote relaxation, preparing your body for sleep.

 

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