Stress is a common problem that we all have to deal with at some point in our lives. There are many factors that bring stress upon the body – external pressures such as work or family responsibilities, and internal influences – what we eat and how our digestive, immune and nervous systems are functioning.
While occasional bouts of stress are difficult to avoid, chronic stress can take a serious toll on your physical and emotional health. In fact, it may increase your risk of conditions like heart disease and depression.
Interestingly, certain foods and beverages may have stress-relieving qualities.
Here are 12 stress-relieving foods and beverages to add to your diet.
Oranges make the list for their wealth of vitamin C. Studies suggest this vitamin can curb levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. In one study of people with high blood pressure, blood pressure and levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) returned to normal more quickly when people took vitamin C before a stressful task.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of potassium, which helps regulate electrolyte balance and manage blood pressure.
Eating potassium-rich foods such, as pumpkin seeds or bananas, may help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of the mineral zinc. One study carried out on 100 female high school students found that zinc deficiency may negatively affect mood.
Zinc is essential for brain and nerve development. The largest storage sites of zinc in the body are in the brain regions involved with emotions.
3. Dark Chocolate
If you crave chocolate when you’re on edge, have some. Research in the Journal of Proteome Research showed people who ate the equivalent of an average-size candy bar (about 1.4 ounces) daily for two weeks had lower cortisol and fight-or-flight hormone levels. To reap the feel-better rewards, choose chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cocoa. And remember: dark chocolate is a high-calorie food, so mind your portions.
Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Indian and South-East Asian cooking. The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. Curcumin may help lower anxiety by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress that often increase in people experiencing mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Turmeric is easy to add to meals. It has minimal flavor, so goes well in smoothies, curries, and casserole dishes.
Yogurt contains healthful bacteria, Lactobaccilus and Bifidobacteria. There is emerging evidence that these bacteria and fermented products have positive effects on brain health.
According to a recent clinical review, yogurt and other dairy products may also produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Some research suggests that chronic inflammation may be partly responsible for anxiety, stress, and depression.
Including yogurt and other fermented food in the diet can benefit the natural gut bacteria and may reduce anxiety and stress.
Fermented foods include cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented soy products.
6. Leafy Greens
These veggies do a body good! Leafy greens contain folate, a vitamin that helps produce the feel-good brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. When stress levels are high, you want these chemicals flowin’! Try some Swiss chard sautéed with olive oil and garlic. It’s one of my 5 superfoods to shake up your diet! Other foods high in folate: asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruit, Brussels sprouts, and garbanzo beans (a.k.a. chickpeas). Yum!
[Read: Top 10 Foods That Help You Sleep]
You’re getting very sleepy… and relaxed, thanks to the amino acid tryptophan found in turkey. It eventually converts to serotonin. And serotonin means good feels. Pair it with some complex carbs to get the full benefit.
Too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, compounding the effects of stress. One cup of spinach helps you stock back up on magnesium. Don’t like spinach? Other green, leafy vegetables are good magnesium sources. Or try some cooked soybeans or a fillet of salmon, also high in magnesium.
9. Fatty Fish
To keep stress in check, make friends with naturally fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon and tuna, can prevent surges in stress hormones and may help protect against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For a healthysupply of feel-good omega-3s, aim to eat at least 3.5 ounces of fatty fish at least twice a week.
Full of antioxidants, blueberries should definitely be part of your diet. They help produce dopamine, that stress-fighting chemical! And they’re delicious. Eat them plain, on top of your yogurt, or stirred into oatmeal. And for a go-anywhere snack, try freeze-dried blueberries!
11. Green tea
Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine, which is receiving increasing scrutiny due to its potential effects on mood disorders. Theanine has anti-anxiety and calming effects and may increase the production of serotonin and dopamine.
A 2017 review found that 200 mg of theanine improved self-reported relaxation and calmness while reducing tension in human trials.
Green tea is easy to add to the day-to-day diet. It is a suitable replacement for soft drinks, coffee, and alcoholic beverages.
Pistachios, as well as other nuts and seeds, are good sources of healthy fats. Eating a handful of pistachios, walnuts, or almonds every day may help lower your cholesterol, ease inflammation in your heart’s arteries, make diabetes less likely, and protect you against the effects of stress. Don’t overdo it, though: Nuts are rich in calories.