9 Superfoods That Relieve Stress

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Superfoods That Relieve Stress

Fruits and vegetables along with fiber and carbohydrate-rich foods release stress and help the brain produce more of the calming hormone serotonin. Including more greens and good fat from fish like salmon in your diet, snacking on a variety of nuts instead of junk food, and indulging in some dark chocolate or cocoa are surefire ways to relieve stress. Eggs, garlic, oatmeal, and fermented foods like yogurt are some other foods good for stress.

After a long, hard and stressful day, all you want to see on your plate are some not-so-healthy comfort foods like good old mac and cheese, fries, pizza, cake, a bag of chips and that tub of ice cream sitting in the freezer. But usually, these are the worst foods when you are stressed. In fact, they are the foods that cause stress as they can sap us of all our energy and make us feel lethargic.

A study shows that stress and food are interlinked. Stress affects our food choices, making us more likely to choose unhealthy foods like M&Ms over healthy ones like grapes. It also illustrated that women are more likely than men to overeat while under stress.1

In short, stress and emotional brain networks foster eating behaviors that can lead to obesity, which is linked to a plethora of other problems such as hypertension, heart disease, and high cholesterol.2

Can Having Right Food Reduce Stress?

High-fat foods, caffeine and sugar do us more harm than good in times of stress, though they may give you a temporary high. But what if you could keep stress at bay with some foods that help reduce stress?

So what foods reduce stress and anxiety? Fruits and vegetables along with fiber and carbohydrate-rich foods can release stress and signal the brain to produce more of the calming hormone serotonin. Check out these natural stress relievers to enjoy better health and calmer days.3

1. Stay Sane By Going Nuts

The health benefits of incorporating a handful of nuts into your diet include relief from stress. Stress is responsible for a lot of physiological reactions in our bodies. Nuts are among foods that lower our blood pressure responses to stress. So which is the best nut to keep you from going nuts? Eat a variety of them but just make sure you choose the unsalted versions.4

2. Get Yourself Some Greens

Well, to a number of reasons to consume your leafy greens, add one more. Lack of folate, a nutrient found abundantly in leafy green veggies like spinach and kale, has been linked to the development of depressive symptoms, according to a Finnish study. So load up on folate-rich foods that relieve stress and depression. These include dark leafy greens, broccoli, asparagus, avocado, okra, peas, citrus fruits, beans, and lentils.5

3. Whip Up Some Eggs

According to studies, a lack of vitamin D can enhance the risk of depression in mid-adulthood. So other than sometime in the sun, make sure you include vitamin D-rich foods for depression and stress such as egg yolks, beef liver, cheese and fortified foods.6

4. Keep Calm With Fermented Foods

A healthy gut means a healthy mind–that’s why you feel sick to the stomach when you are stressed sometimes. Studies suggest that the microbes in our gut are linked to the emotional well-being and the wellness of our central nervous system. They highlight the important role of bacteria in the two-way communication of the gut-brain axis. Certain types of good bacteria like L. rhamnosus may prove to be useful in stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression.7

So what are you waiting for? Have an extra helping of anti-stress foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles and other fermented foods.

5. Gorge On Fruits And Veggies

Turns out your mom was right all along. According to a study from the University of Otago, consuming seven to eight servings of fruits and veggies is a great way to keep the blues away. These stress-relieving foods may promote emotional well-being among healthy young adults. The study revealed that on days when young adults experienced greater positive affect or positive moods, they ate more servings of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables predicted improvements in positive affect the next day as well.8

6. How About Some Dark Chocolate And Hot Cocoa?

There’s something about chocolate that just puts you into bliss mode. One of the best foods for stress, dark chocolate, in particular, is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenols. According to a study, after 30 days of consuming a dark chocolate drink, participants reported significantly increased self-rated calmness and contentedness relative to placebo. This makes it one of the tastiest calming foods for stress and anxiety.9

7. Beat The Blues With Salmon

Fatty fish like salmon is another one in our list of destress foods. Study data suggests that supplementing the diet with omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and anxiety among healthy young adults. A 20 percent reduction in anxiety symptoms was recorded among participants, highlighting the potential benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for individuals without an anxiety disorder diagnosis. Other omega-3 foods that lower stress include flaxseed oil, walnuts, chia seeds and soybeans.10

8. Try Some Oatmeal For Comfort

A comfort food for some and a tasteless goopy nuisance to others, there’s no denying that oatmeal is a food for stress. What makes it a good food for stress management? The high tryptophan content in oatmeal puts your mood in the right gear. According to a study, tryptophan significantly decreased quarrelsome behavior, while increasing agreeable behavior. Men responded better to tryptophan supplementation and behaved less dominantly. Their perception of agreeableness was also enhanced.

Turkey, rabbit, beef, tuna, shellfish, soya, eggs, pumpkin and squash seeds, beans and lentils are other stress relief foods loaded with tryptophan.

9. Calm Down With Garlic

Research has shown that individuals with stress and anxiety usually have low levels of zinc in their bodies and supplementing the diet with zinc reduces the symptoms.12 That’s where garlic comes in. It not only has a host of health benefits but is also one of the foods that help with stress and anxiety. If you don’t have a thing for garlic, try other zinc-rich foods such as lima beans, spinach, beef, kidney beans and shrimp.

References   [ + ]

1. Zellner, Debra A., Susan Loaiza, Zuleyma Gonzalez, Jaclyn Pita, Janira Morales, Deanna Pecora, and Amanda Wolf. “Food selection changes under stress.” Physiology & behavior 87, no. 4 (2006): 789-793.
2. Dallman, Mary F. “Stress-induced obesity and the emotional nervous system.” Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism 21, no. 3 (2010): 159-165.
3. How To Eat Right To Reduce Stress. PCRM.
4. Eating Nuts Linked To Healthier Longer Life. Harvard Health Publications.
5. Seppälä, Jussi, Hannu Koponen, Hannu Kautiainen, Johan G. Eriksson, Olli Kampman, Satu Männistö, Pekka Mäntyselkä et al. “Association between folate intake and melancholic depressive symptoms. A Finnish population-based study.” Journal of affective disorders 138, no. 3 (2012): 473-478.
6. Maddock, Jane, Diane J. Berry, Marie-Claude Geoffroy, Chris Power, and Elina Hyppönen. “Vitamin D and common mental disorders in mid-life: cross-sectional and prospective findings.” Clinical nutrition 32, no. 5 (2013): 758-764.
7. Bravo, Javier A., Paul Forsythe, Marianne V. Chew, Emily Escaravage, Hélène M. Savignac, Timothy G. Dinan, John Bienenstock, and John F. Cryan. “Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108, no. 38 (2011): 16050-16055.
8. White, Bonnie A., Caroline C. Horwath, and Tamlin S. Conner. “Many apples a day keep the blues away–Daily experiences of negative and positive affect and food consumption in young adults.” British journal of health psychology 18, no. 4 (2013): 782-798.
9. Pase, Matthew P., Andrew B. Scholey, Andrew Pipingas, Marni Kras, Karen Nolidin, Amy Gibbs, Keith Wesnes, and Con Stough. “Cocoa polyphenols enhance positive mood states but not cognitive performance: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial.” Journal of Psychopharmacology 27, no. 5 (2013): 451-458.
10. Kiecolt-Glaser, Janice K., Martha A. Belury, Rebecca Andridge, William B. Malarkey, and Ronald Glaser. “Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial.” Brain, behavior, and immunity 25, no. 8 (2011): 1725-1734.
11. aan het Rot, Marije, Debbie S. Moskowitz, Gilbert Pinard, and Simon N. Young. “Social behaviour and mood in everyday life: the effects of tryptophan in quarrelsome individuals.” Journal of psychiatry & neuroscience: JPN 31, no. 4 (2006): 253.
12. Russo, A. J. “Decreased zinc and increased copper in individuals with anxiety.” Nutrition and metabolic insights 4 (2011): 1.