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Reduce your stress by eating! Foods that fight stress.

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

When we are stressed, we tend to resort to fatty, large meals, eating out, sweets, and alcohol. Let's face it, in times of stress or upset, many of us find comfort in food, a beer, or a glass of wine. However, this is not a good permanent solution.

Turning to unhealthy foods may offer temporary relief, but in the long run, it can make you feel worse. When your body lacks essential nutrients, you may experience reduced energy, lethargy, and in some cases, impaired concentration. This can lead to increased stress.

Foods that fight stress :

Our diet significantly impacts our brain health, highlighting the crucial connection between the brain and the stomach. If you've been feeling more anxious than usual, it's vital to understand which foods to choose and which to avoid to combat stress effectively. The best strategy is to maintain a healthy, balanced diet that includes moderate amounts from all food groups.

Incorporating foods like whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and lean proteins as staples in your diet is the best approach to ensure your body receives the optimal amount of nutrients to combat both physical and mental health issues. When selecting foods, remember that some possess great properties that help the body fight stress. Opting for these stress-fighting foods can aid in healing and calming your mind permanently, rather than resorting to temporary solutions.

Some of the best foods to fight stress are:

Avocado –

Avocados, a creamy and versatile fruit, can be enjoyed in various ways, such as raw, in sauces, dressings, dips, or smoothies. This nutrient-rich fruit combats oxidative stress in the body with its high glutathione content. Avocados also boast higher levels of vitamin E, folic acid, and beta-carotene than any other fruit, enhancing their anti-anxiety properties. Additionally, the vitamin B6 in avocados aids in synthesizing important neurotransmitters like serotonin, which influences mood. Consuming one serving of avocados daily can help regulate blood pressure and high cortisol levels.

Blueberries –

In stressful situations, instead of reaching for chips or chocolate, try opting for one of the best superfoods, like blueberries, to help you cope with stress and achieve a higher level of calm. Blueberries boast some of the highest levels of antioxidants, such as anthocyanin, vitamin C, and E. This berry is linked to numerous health benefits, including enhanced sharpness, better focus, and a clearer mind. They also contain potassium, magnesium, and manganese, minerals known for soothing physical tension, which is a crucial aspect of stress. Additionally, the natural juice in blueberries can help reduce the production of cortisol, a hormone that exacerbates stress.

Chamomile tea –

Indeed, managing stress isn't just about what you eat; what you drink plays a significant role too. Consuming liquids high in sugar and caffeine, like coffee, energy drinks, or soda, can actually increase your stress levels if they're a regular part of your diet. On the other hand, chamomile tea has long been recognized as a natural sleep aid. Furthermore, it has been used in clinical trials demonstrating its effectiveness in reducing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. This highlights the importance of choosing beverages that can help alleviate stress.

Dark chocolate –

Chocolate, often regarded as an indulgence, has a notable connection with our mood. Research indicates that consuming chocolate can indeed make us happier. Dark chocolate, in particular, is rich in flavonols and polyphenols. These antioxidants positively affect brain function and enhance our ability to adapt and cope in stressful situations. However, this doesn't imply that chocolate should be consumed every time stress is felt. For optimal benefits as a relaxant, chocolate is most effective when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

Oat –

Oats, known for being a nutritious light meal, also possess numerous health benefits that can enhance your well-being. As a complex carbohydrate, oats stimulate the brain to produce higher levels of serotonin, a chemical associated with well-being. This increase in serotonin helps induce a sense of calmness and reduces stress. Studies have demonstrated that children who consume oatmeal for breakfast tend to be more alert and sharper throughout the school day compared to those who choose alternative breakfast options. This highlights the positive impact of oats on both mood and cognitive function.

Walnuts –

Nuts, particularly walnuts, are an excellent choice for a healthy snack that can help in better-managing stress levels. Renowned for their sweet and pleasant taste, walnuts are not only delicious on their own but also versatile enough to be included in various dishes. They can be a delightful addition to salads, offering a crunchy texture and rich flavor. Moreover, walnuts can be incorporated into desserts like walnut pie or combined with honey for a sweet treat. These options make walnuts an ideal and nutritious snack between meals, contributing to stress relief.

Pistachios –

Pistachios are another excellent food choice for snacking that can also aid in combating stress and anxiety over the long term. Research has shown that consuming just two small portions of peanuts daily can lessen vascular constriction during stressful situations. This reduction in constriction eases the pressure on the heart by further dilating the arteries. Additionally, the rhythmic and repetitive action of peeling pistachios can be a surprisingly stress-relieving activity. This combination of physiological benefits and the calming effect of the peeling process makes peanuts a valuable snack for stress management.

Green leafy vegetables –

Green leafy vegetables should be a central part of everyone's diet. In addition to helping combat stress, leafy greens are packed with nutrients and antioxidants that help fight diseases and leave your body feeling healthier and more energetic. Dark leafy greens, such as spinach, are particularly beneficial as they are rich in folic acid, which helps your body produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin, often referred to as a "well-being" chemical. Incorporating leafy greens into your diet can help you feel more well-being and less overall stress.

Sardines –

Despite their small size, these little fish are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which not only enhance brain function but also help in reducing stress. They are also rich in vitamin D. Omega-3 fatty acids positively influence the smooth release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are known as hormones of well-being and possess calming properties. Vitamin D has been studied for its beneficial impact on neurotransmitters that help balance mood and alleviate stress. This combination of nutrients in these small fish makes them a valuable addition to a diet aimed at managing stress and promoting overall brain health.

Fermented Food –

Incorporating fermented foods like yogurt (especially the kind with live cultures), sauerkraut, kefir, or tempeh into your diet can significantly contribute to gut health, which in turn, plays a crucial role in enhancing mental health and reducing stress levels. The beneficial bacteria found in these fermented foods have a direct impact on brain chemistry. They transmit positive signals that regulate mood and behavior, highlighting the vital connection between gut health and overall mental well-being. Maintaining a diet rich in these probiotic foods can be a strategic way to support both digestive and mental health.

Combining all of them in your diet

Planning your meals wisely is key to staying physically healthy and managing stress levels. Knowing which foods to avoid and the best snacks for when you feel anxious can help you gain control over your emotions and fears. When stressed, you might be tempted by classic "comfort foods" that are often loaded with sugar, salt, and are excessively starchy or fatty. However, although these foods may offer temporary relief, they can actually make you feel worse in the long run.

Incorporating stress-fighting snacks like fresh berries, dark chocolate, yogurt, nuts, peanuts, or a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens can improve your well-being in both the short and long term. When addressing stress over the long haul, it's crucial to maintain a diet that is predominantly healthy and balanced.

To stay on track, planning your meals for the week in advance is beneficial. This ensures that when you need to eat something due to stress, you have a variety of stress-relieving foods available in your kitchen. Ensuring that the majority of your meals include components like lean proteins and green leafy vegetables will not only contribute to overall health but can also positively impact your mental health and stress levels.

That's a great example of a healthy, stress-relieving menu:

Breakfast: Oatmeal with blueberries or a fruit smoothie with avocado and blueberries. This meal starts your day with a mix of complex carbohydrates, antioxidants, and healthy fats, which are great for mood stabilization and energy.

Morning Snack: Yogurt with fruit or a handful of peanuts. The probiotics in yogurt and the protein in peanuts can help keep you satiated and provide essential nutrients.

Lunch: Sardines and a salad rich in leafy greens. Sardines are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and leafy greens provide vital nutrients and fiber.

Afternoon Snack: Dark chocolate. A small amount can be a mood booster and satisfy your sweet tooth healthily.

Dinner: A colorful salad with plenty of leafy greens and healthy fats like avocado, walnuts, chia seeds, or hemp seeds. This meal is packed with nutrients and will support overall well-being.

Before Bedtime: Chamomile tea. It's a calming beverage that can help you relax and prepare for a good night's sleep.

This menu balances nutritional needs with stress-relieving properties, making it a great choice for both physical and mental health.

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