The Top 10 Foods for Stress Relief
Since stress can take a damaging toll on your physical and mental health, knowing about specific beneficial foods for stress can help improve your life and well-being.
Why Eat Foods for Stress?
Whenever we're faced with a stressful situation in life, it has a lasting effect on our physiology. The effect is cumulative, so the more frequently you experience stress, the worse it is for you. Chronically high stress levels can cause readily observable symptoms like lowered libido, headaches, high blood pressure, stomach pain and trouble sleeping. It can even affect memory, learning and perception. In the long run, stress can increase your risk of depression, anxiety, obesity, heart disease and more. A shocking 43 percent of all adults suffer from the negative health effects of stress.
There are many routes you can take to relieve stress. You can cut out stress in your life from its root source, or, if that's not possible, you can change the way you cope with it. Plenty of sleep, exercise, meditation and adaptogenic herbal supplements can all make a big difference. However, since most of us already eat three times a day anyway, it's very easy for us to make a huge difference by eating specific foods for stress. Here are 10 of the best examples we've found.
1. Green Tea
Drinking a freshly-brewed cup of green tea is the perfect way to relax when you get home from work or school. Many people find the simple physical experience of enjoying a warm beverage relieves stress. Green tea also contains beneficial compounds such as theanine and catechins, which are proven to relieve stress and improve well-being.
Interestingly, two studies from Harvard University found that eating nuts lead to a longer lifespan and an improved response to stress. It's not entirely clear why this is. However, the magnesium content of nuts certainly contributes. Not getting enough magnesium can cause headaches and fatigue, which will make you feel much more stressed than usual.
Carrots are one of the most common and cheapest vegetables. Some people don't realize just how great they are for you. Carrots are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, all of which help the body deal with stress. Plus, crunching on carrots can help relieve physical tension in the jaw. They're a great alternative snack to things like chips and pretzels.
Salmon is a good example of a type of fish that's rich in omega fatty acids, which are beneficial to many areas of health. One study found that consuming extra omega-3 fatty acids leads to better stress management. Other studies have found that omega fatty acids relieve symptoms of depression, which is often a stress-related condition. So, try to eat a portion of salmon or another fatty fish at least twice a week.
Oranges provide a high dose of vitamin C, which is best-known for boosting the immune system. However, this vitamin also helps you manage stress better. It helps to normalize blood pressure and vasodilation during stress. A study published in 2015 found that vitamin C supplementation reduced anxiety in students. Another study found that getting more vitamin C helps your blood pressure and cortisol levels go back to normal more quickly after a stressful event.
6. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is one of the world's best endorphin-boosting foods. The small amount of sugar and the delicious flavor are enough to flood your brain with pleasure, reducing stress. However, the stress-reducing effects don't stop there. One study found that dark chocolate helps to reduce inflammation that can be caused by stress. If you want to add dark chocolate to your diet to help fight stress, limit it to one small square daily.
Maca is a South American plant used as a staple crop by native Peruvians. It's rich in calcium, phosphorus, fatty acids and B-vitamins, all of which help balance the body. Maca root is also an adaptogenic plant medicine, so it can help you deal with stress and improve your subjective well-being. You can add maca flour to your favorite baking recipes, or simply take a supplement capsule.
8. Lemon Balm Tea
Although not technically a food, lemon balm tea is a beverage that you can add to your diet for stress management. Researchers have found this herb to relieve stress on both a cellular and psychological level thanks to its soothing aroma and its antioxidant compounds. You can have a cup with each meal, or simply whenever you want to relieve some tension.
9. Leafy Greens
Why eat more leafy greens? The answer is that they are rich in folate. Folate plays a major role in stress management and mental health. Researchers have found that taking folate can prevent depression which can be caused by stress. So, avoid stress-related depression and mood issues by loading up your plate with broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, kale and mustard greens.
Avocado is as healthy as it is delicious. The B-vitamin content in avocado will boost your mood and help your body bounce back from stress. Studies have also shown that avocado oil reduces oxidative stress on a cellular level. Less oxidative stress to your body's cells leads to a reduction in your risk for various health problems.