Balancing schedules, family, work, health and all of our other responsibilities can be quite the juggling act. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all that we have going on and stress can be a burden that falls on us even in the happiest of times. Luckily, there are many ways to cope with stress and anxiety. While it varies from person to person, stress relief can come from things like running, talking with a friend, walking through the park, meditating and getting better sleep. There are also many foods that help reduce stress by activating certain chemicals in our bodies.
These stress-reducing foods contain vitamins and antioxidants that help us maintain healthy levels of chemicals to fight off stress triggers. When you’re feeling anxious, try some of these foods to fuel your body, boost your mood and help manage your stress. We’ve created an infographic that includes tips on how to incorporate these foods into your daily life.
Along with many other health benefits, eating salmon has been shown to have calming and relaxing effects on our bodies. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids which help our brains function and stay healthy. By keeping your brain healthy and regulating good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, you are more equipped to handle any stressful triggers that may come your way. Other benefits of eating salmon include promoting bone and heart health, as well as producing high levels of energy so you can conquer the day!
Summary Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids and helps promote healthy brain function. This helps to regulate the good chemicals your brain produces, aiding in anxiety management.
There is a scientific explanation for why we all feel so sleepy after eating our Thanksgiving dinners. Turkey contains the essential amino acid tryptophan which aids in the production of serotonin in your brain. Low levels of serotonin may make you moody or anxious so it is important to provide your body with the tryptophan needed to transmit this beneficial chemical. Tryptophan is most commonly known for helping us sleep better, so that’s why you sometimes need a nap after your annual family get-together.
Summary Turkey contains tryptophan which helps you get better sleep, relieves anxiety and puts you in a better mood. Tryptophan is a key player in transmitting serotonin.
Almonds make for a great healthy snack option, especially on the go. Almonds help reduce anxiety because they are packed with stress-reducing nutrients like vitamin E and magnesium. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps fight damage in cells. Almonds with skin are more beneficial than skinless or blanched almonds since most of the antioxidants are located in the skin. Magnesium has many health benefits including controlling your blood sugar levels and lowering blood pressure, but it also plays a critical role in regulating your nervous system.
Summary Almonds are packed with stress-reducing nutrients like vitamin E and magnesium. Low levels of both of these nutrients can lead to stress, anxiety, muscle weakness and fatigue.
Like turkey, oats contain tryptophan which helps your body produce the levels of serotonin needed to keep you calm and happy. Because stress causes blood sugar levels to rise, try to avoid sugary simple carbs (like an oatmeal cookie) since adding more sugars makes it difficult to relax. Instead, eat a bowl of oatmeal with some healthy fruit thrown in.
Summary Oats contain tryptophan which helps produce serotonin. Serotonin helps boost our mood and relieve stress.
Yogurt helps with stress relief because it contains probiotics that keep a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria in your body. Too much bad bacteria can cause stress and anxiety so adding probiotics helps balance out any flare-ups. Any yogurt will do but Greek yogurt may be more beneficial because it contains more live and active cultures than plain yogurt. Other fermented foods like kimchi, sourdough bread and kombucha also contain probiotics.
Summary Yogurt and other fermented foods contain probiotics that help balance out good and bad bacterias. An uneven balance of bad bacteria can lead to stress and anxiety.
6: Dark Chocolate
High-quality dark chocolate with a high cacao content can be very beneficial to your heart, skin and stress relief. Dark chocolate contains flavonols and other compounds that act as antioxidants. Eating dark chocolate can improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and increase serotonin levels, leaving you happier and healthier. However, dark chocolate does contain caffeine and sugars that can increase anxious behavior. Along with calories, it’s best to consume dark chocolate in modest amounts.
Summary Dark chocolate contains flavonols and antioxidants that improve blood flow, lower blood pressure and increase serotonin.
Citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits that are high in vitamin C help combat stress and allow you to bounce back quicker from a stressful experience. Stress causes cortisol to be released into your bloodstream and triggers your “fight or flight” response. Cortisol is depleted by vitamin C so it is important to maintain healthy levels to calm down. Citrus fruits can also help decrease inflammation in the brain (a natural response to stress) and allow your brain to function properly.
Summary Citrus fruits contain high levels of vitamin C that help you cope with stressful situations by regulating cortisol levels.
8: Bell peppers
Like citrus fruits, bell peppers are high in vitamin C so they help regulate cortisol levels — helping with sleep quality and balancing your mood. Vitamin C is highest in raw, uncooked fruits and vegetables so to reap the benefits of bell peppers, enjoy them in a veggie dip or as a snack throughout the day.
Summary Bell peppers contain high levels of vitamin C that help regulate cortisol levels — helping with sleep and balancing your mood.
Blueberries are a low-calorie snack packed with nutrients. Out of the most common fruits and vegetables, blueberries are known to offer the most antioxidants. Along with antioxidants, blueberries also contain vitamin C. Eating blueberries can help reduce stress by promoting brain function and lowering blood pressure.
Summary Blueberries are packed with antioxidants that help promote brain function and lower blood pressure.
Besides smelling great, chamomile helps reduce stress by decreasing inflammation in the brain and assisting in anxiety relief. Chamomile contains antioxidants that can help you sleep better and deal with stressful situations. Drinking chamomile tea is a great way to reduce stress since it has a calming scent and effect in your body.
Summary Chamomile contains antioxidants that reduce inflammation and promote better sleep. The aroma of chamomile is also known to have calming effects.
11: Green tea
Green tea contains an amino acid, theanine, that helps with relaxation. Theanine can help boost your mood and calm your body when you’re stressed. Green tea is a great alternative to high caffeine beverages since it offers many calming effects.
Summary Green tea contains theanine which helps with relaxation and stress.
Turmeric is a spice most commonly used in Indian foods that contains a substance called curcumin. Curcumin is an antioxidant that is anti-inflammatory, allowing your body to fight bacteria and certain diseases. Because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, turmeric can help relieve stress and anxiety. However, turmeric only contains a small amount of curcumin so just adding it to your meal will not help with stress. For the best results, you can use a turmeric extract or supplement.
Summary Turmeric contains curcumin which helps to reduce inflammation and has antioxidant properties that help relieve stress.
Just as there are foods that help us manage and relieve stress, there are foods that can induce stress. While it may be difficult to avoid some of these foods completely, you can try to reduce your consumption or find healthier alternatives.
- Processed foods
Add some of these stress relieving foods to your diet and reap the benefits! Enjoy better quality sleep, better moods and a calmer overall well-being. Even during your busy daily routines, make time for yourself and prioritize your mental and physical health. Take a break and indulge in some delicious treats that help you manage stress by boosting your body’s natural defenses.