How to Reduce Stress with the Right Foods

When people think of stress-related eating, they often associate it with binge eating or junk food because when feeling strained or depressed, many of us succumb to food cravings or turn to whatever is convenient.

But did you know that there are foods that rather than make you feel worse when you are stressed, can make you feel better and even offer some stress relief?

While stress is essential for survival and helps us build resilience, too much of it can lead to health conditions such as proneness to infections, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even skin conditions.

We should manage our stress levels as they affect both our physical and mental health.

When you give in to your cravings, it may be comforting for the moment, but these high-fat and overly processed foods will only offer momentary relief and ultimately make you feel worse. Instead of turning to these foods, choose the right ones that are healthy for you, and have been studied to relieve tension and reduce stress.  Here are some great food choices that will help your body combat stress:

Magnesium Rich Foods

Your body needs adequate magnesium to regulate blood pressure and cortisol levels. Therefore, those with low levels of magnesium are at higher risk of stress and depression. According to a study led by Emily Tarleton from the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, The University of Vermont, adequate levels of magnesium can significantly decrease depression and anxiety regardless of gender and age. [1]

Leafy green vegetables are full of magnesium. In fact, one cup of spinach alone already contains 39% of the USDA’s magnesium RDI. Other leafy green vegetables to include in your diet are mustard greens, collard greens, arugula, and Swiss chard. Other foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, especially quinoa, almonds, cashews, peanuts, sesame seeds and legumes, especially black beans and tofu.

Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Foods rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients improve your body’s ability to fight off stress-related free radicals. Blueberries are unusually high in antioxidants and phytonutrients. They are critical for countering stress and boosting immunity. Other berries such as blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, goji berries, and strawberries are also rich in antioxidants and do their part to help keep you healthy and stress-free. Other foods rich in antioxidants include bitter dark chocolate, Pecans, Artichokes and kidney beans.

Avocados

Avocados are rich in glutathione which plays a protective role in stress relief. Increased levels of glutathione result in improved stress tolerance because according to a study by glutathione protects against oxidative stress, and other toxic metal buildup. [2]

Beyond its high levels of glutathione, avocados are also rich in beta-carotene, vitamin E, lutein, and folate, and vitamin B.

Dark Chocolate

Dark bitter chocolate triggers relaxation of blood vessel walls. The improved circulation following this relaxation creates a sense of calm and satisfaction, reducing stress hormones. Therefore, indulging in small amounts of dark bitter chocolate helps regulate stress levels naturally. Dark chocolate is also rich in magnesium.

Carbohydrate-Rich Foods

Carbohydrate-rich foods also reduce stress and improve self-control due to the glucose they supply into the bloodstream. Glucose molecules feed the brain and muscle tissue. When you consume sufficient carbohydrate-rich foods, you will be more relaxed with a greater sense of self-control with your attitude more under your own control.

Carbohydrates also boost production and increase serotonin levels that help keep your mood regulated. Serotonin helps regulate everything from sleep to memory to mood. According to a study led by Trisha Jenkins from School of Medical Sciences, Health Innovations Research Institute, low serotonin levels contribute to lowered mood states. [3]

Foods that are high-fiber and rich in carbohydrates boost serotonin production in the brain.

Opt for whole carbohydrates such as buckwheat, spelt, brown rice, quinoa, and root vegetables.

 

To conclude: If you are prone to stress, and work at a job that puts a lot of pressure on you, or struggle with your mental and emotional health, consider these stress-busting superfoods before you give into those unhealthy cravings that you will ultimately regret. 

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References

[1] Emily K. Tarleton. Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180067

[2] Joseph Pizzorno, ND, Editor in Chief. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb; 13(1): 8–12.

[3] Trisha A. Jenkins. Nutrients. 2016 Jan; 8(1): 56. Published online 2016 Jan 20. doi:  10.3390/nu8010056

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