The world we live in today is fast-paced, hectic and therefore highly stressful. Whether it’s the demands of your job, relationships, financial obligations or emotional problems that are the cause of your stress and anxiety, eating the right foods and getting plenty of exercise can help you to de-stress. While mild stress can make us feel pumped up and ready for action, chronic stress can put your health at risk and can lead to depression, high blood pressure, insomnia and heart attacks. So, here’s a list of 15 foods that can potentially help combat anxiety and stress.
1. Dark chocolate
We are told that eating too much chocolate can be bad for us, but studies have shown that regularly eating small amounts of dark chocolate is actually good for you and can help to reduce anxiety and stress levels. This is becausedark chocolate changes how our body reacts to stress by lowering levels of the stress inducing hormones cortisol and epinephrine.Dark chocolate is also rich in flavanols which help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. In milk chocolate flavanol levels are severely diluted so you don’t get any health benefits from eating it.This is great news for chocolate lovers! So next time you’re feeling stressed remember to reach for the dark chocolate rather than the milk chocolate and munch your stress away.
2. Green Leafy Vegetables
When you’re stressed you probably feel like eating something unhealthy and high in fat like chips, burgers or ice-cream, but if you swap those foods for healthy green veg instead you will soon find your anxiety and stress levels dropping. Green leafy vegetables like swiss chard, spinach and kale contain folate, which produces the pleasure and calm inducing hormone dopamine. Recent studies have revealed that people who eat foods that are rich in folates are significantly less likely to suffer from depression. So, add some green veg to your salads or stir fry and turn that frown upside down.
3. Green tea
Scientific research has discovered that drinking up to 5 cups of green tea per day can relieve stress. The levels of an amino acid called L-theanine found in green the teacan reduce stress by actually blocking stress signals to the brain. If you are a coffee drinker you might want to substitute one of your daily coffees for a green tea instead. The caffeine in coffee might give you a much needed energy boost when you’re on a deadline, but caffeineincreases the levels of one of the body’s stress hormones, cortisol and it effects your heart rate and raises your blood pressure.
Eat a handful of blueberries when you are feeling anxious and stressed. Those little blue balls are packed full of antioxidants and vitamin C which our bodies need to help us fight off that stressed out feeling. One cup of fresh blueberries gives us 25% of our recommended daily allowance of vitamin C and blueberries work well in combination with lots of different healthy foods. Sprinkle a handful on your breakfast to sweeten up your porridge, or add them to a homemade smoothie to give yourself a vitamin C boost at the start of the day.
5. Turkey Breast
When you think about turkey you probably associate it with that horrible post-Christmas dinner bloated feeling, but turkey breast is a great stress busting foods and these days more people are turning to turkey as a substitute for red meat because it is lower in fat and has other health benefits. Turkey breast is high in tryptophan which is an amino acid that is found inprotein rich foods. Tryptophan helps our bodies produce the chemical serotonin,that makes us feel full up, calm and happy. Researchers conducted tests on the effects that tryptophan has on behaviour and results showed that people who consumed foods with high levels of tryptophan are less argumentative and calmer as a result.
Avocados are extremely good for you and this weird looking, but oh-so delicious tasting pear is packed full of stress-reducing vitamin B which our bodies need to keep our brain and nerve cells healthy.And it doesn’t stop there: Avocados can also help reduce blood pressure, inflammation and work as a sugar stabiliser because they are high in monounsaturated fattyacids and potassium. They work great in salads, adding extra texture, or as creamy tasty guacamole dip. Yum!
A glass of milk may seem like an odd choice of drink for an adult, we usually associate it with children or don’t generally think of milk as a refreshing choice of drink. But drinking milk can actually reduce stress levels. Itgives us a much needed hit of vitamin D, which is a nutrient that our bodies need to help boost our happiness and sense of well-being. Studies have shown that people who have a reduced level of vitamin D are more likely to suffer from panic and anxiety attacks. So, next time you’re coping with a stressful situation pour yourself a glass of the white stuff to help calm yourself back to sanity.
Eating the right sort of nuts is good for you. Walnuts, brazil nuts and almonds are all high in calories but they also contain antioxidants and omega-3 oils which help lower blood pressure. Eating a handful of these types of nuts as a healthy snack when you’re feeling stressed will give you a much needed energy boost when your stress levels are at their highest. Almonds, in particular, are packed full of vitamin E and B which help strengthen your immune system. It is recommended that we should eat a handful of almonds a day to help keep our heart healthy.
Oatmeal is a great food to eat at breakfast time to kickstart your day and fill you full of magnesium and potassium that help reduce blood pressure, making you feel more relaxed and prepares your body to face the stresses of the day. Studies have shown that people who eat oatmeal rich cereals will see an increase in their serotonin levels which is the brain chemical that makes us feel happy and calm.
10. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a rich in magnesium, which is one of the vital minerals that our body needs to regulate our energy production, relax muscles and to maintain a healthy nervous system. Pumpkins seeds also contain B vitamins which induces mental relaxation and therefore helps you cope better with stress. According to a study in India, if you eat some pumpkin seeds a few hours before bed then the amino acid, L-tryptophan that is found in the seed will aid your melatonin and serotonin production which helps to encourage a good night’s sleep.
Kickstart your day with a healthy squeeze of lemon juice in a glass of warm water. Lemon is great food source for de-toxifying your body first thing in the morning. Swap your normal cup of coffee for a glass of lemon water to flush out your liver toxins and oxygenate your brain ready for the day ahead. And you don’t just have to drink lemon to feel the effects; Japanese researchers have discovered that lemon scent actually alters gene activity and blood chemistry and reduces stress.So, next time you are feeling stressed get out there and sniff a lemon!
It has been scientifically proven that eating foods that are high in omega-3 healthy oils such as Salmon can help to reduce anxiety and stress. According to studies, eating as little as 12 ounces of salmon can reduce stress by at least 20%. It is recommended that we should eat oily fish 3 times a week in order to feel the full health benefits.
13. Chewing gum
Okay, so technically it’s not a food because we don’t digest it, but chewing gum can be a quick fix for stress busting. Studies show that when we chew gum it has a calming effect on our brain, increases alertness and helps us to improve our multitasking skills. Perhaps it’s the simple action of chewing that makes us feel back in control. Who knows, but at least our breath smells minty fresh at the same time and chewing gum also takes the edge off your hunger so that you are less likely to reach for an unhealthy snack when stressed.
14. Fermented Foods
Sounds gross, but actually the bacteria found in in fermented foods such as lactobacillus and rhamnosus are beneficial for helping to tackle stress. The bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut, not only keep your gut healthy they also have a positive effect on certain areas of our brain, helping to lower the stress-induced hormone corticosterone.
Okay, now this one is definitely not a food, but sunshine does provide you with one of the key vitamins for bone health that is also found in some foods – vitamin D. It is recommended that we spend 15-20 minutes a day in the sunshine (use sun cream during high temperatures) to help boost our serotonin and vitamin D levels. Increased levels of serotonin production in the body makes us feel happy and helps us to combat feelings of anxiety and stress.