12 Foods You Didn't Know Help to Relieve Stress
Increasingly busy lifestyles and unexpected events can lead to increased stress and anxiety. Some symptoms of stress can include headache, body aches, tiredness, upset stomach, and lack of sleep.
Experiencing symptoms of stress and anxiety can lead us to seek out professional help. There are, however, lifestyle choices that may help to ease anxiety. Exercising regularly, taking time to relax, and spending quality time with friends can all help reduce the effects of stress.
One of the best ways to calm anxiety for the longer term may be to eat well-balanced nutritious diets rich in nutrients that may promote calmness. Most of the time, a healthy body can help lead to healthier thoughts and emotions.
Here are 12 foods that may help to relieve stress.
Research has shown that there may be a strong connection between gut health and our ability to handle stress well. According to recent research, there may be a positive connection between the use of fermented foods, including yogurt, and lower anxiety levels.
In 2015, the College of William & Mary (W&M) and the University of Maryland joined forces to research the effects of eating fermented food on social anxiety. They found that eating more fermented foods apparently led to having less social anxiety. W&M assistant professor of psychology, Hilimire, said, "I think that it is absolutely fascinating that the microorganisms in your gut can influence your mind."(1)
The beneficial bacteria used in the fermentation process in making yogurt may help to balance your digestive system and then your entire body and mind.
How to Enjoy
It is best to eat unsweetened yogurt since there are no added sugars or artificial sweeteners, which can be bad for health and can destroy the beneficial bacteria. Adding some fruit or honey to plain yogurt is a really delicious way to eat yogurt without decreasing its benefits.
Also, according to nutrition website Cleanplates, sometimes yogurt is dehydrated into yogurt powder and then rehydrated into the yogurt product(2). This process effectively kills the beneficial bacteria, so we should avoid this variety of yogurt.
Bananas are rich in b vitamins and potassium which may help in promoting emotional wellbeing. Eating a diet rich in potassium is important, therefore, since "...even a slight decrease in potassium levels can result in significant feelings of anxiety."(3) How to Enjoy
We may incorporate bananas into smoothies that include other beneficial foods. This may aid in quick digestion, speeding up the benefits. Bananas may also be sliced and added to oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, or even puddings.
Blueberries are a great addition to any diet; they're so delicious and are have abundant amounts of vitamin C and antioxidants. Research has shown that eating blueberries can lead to less anxiety.(4) How to Enjoy
Blueberries can be eaten fresh, frozen, or cooked. It doesn't take a large amount of blueberries to benefit. We can add them to smoothies, yogurt, fruit salads, oatmeal, cold cereal, pancakes, and more. We can also eat a small handful of fresh blueberries as a refreshing snack in the the afternoon.
Many of us have probably experienced getting sleepy and relaxed after eating delicious turkey at Thanksgiving dinner. We get sleepy because of the tryptophan that turkey contains. Tryptophan is the amino acid that helps out mind produce the serotonin needed to keep calm minds.(4) How to Enjoy
Turkey can be eaten hot, or it can be sliced and cooled, enjoyed on sandwiches or in healthy salads.
Avocados are rich in B vitamins, Vitamin E and healthy fats that assist with reduction in the effects of stress. Vitamin E can also help with thinking processes.(4) How to Enjoy
Avocados are great as a snack, in salads, dips, or even in smoothies. A favorite dessert recipe is non-dairy pudding made with avocado and cocoa. Delicious!
Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can assist with reduction in anxiety.(5) Salmon contains a large amount of this healthy diet and could be a great addition to a healthy diet, up to twice a week. How to Enjoy
Those of us who love steak can enjoy salmon cooked like a steak. It can be really tasty as a steak alternative. Salmon can also be enjoyed in a variety of hot dishes and can be a high protein addition to a garden salad.
Almonds are full of antioxidants, protein, beneficial fatty acids, and magnesium. Magnesium has been shown to help reduce anxiety symptoms.(4) Eating almonds is a great way to support a calm mind and body. How to Enjoy
Almonds are versatile and convenient. We can eat them in their raw or roasted forms, with or without salt. Almond butters are also a great choice and can be used on toast, in smoothies, or in oatmeal.
Kale is a dark leafy vegetable that is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. State University of New York research has shown that lower antioxidant levels can lead to mood problems, including anxiety.(4) How to Enjoy
Raw mature kale can be hard to chew or digest. Using baby kale may increase the benefit because it's more tender and easier to digest. In this way, kale can replace the less nutritious ice burg lettuce. If baby kale is not available, the kale can be chopped into smaller pieces. Alternatively, kale can be steamed or cooked and eaten as a side dish.
Spinach also is high in magnesium which has been shown to assist with anxiety by reducing cortisol levels.(6) It is also rich in vitamin C and iron which help with immunity and energy levels. How to Enjoy
Spinach can be put into smoothies, cooked as a part of an omelet, or added to other dishes such as pasta.
10. Matcha Green Tea
A Japanese powdered green tea, Matcha, is filled with antioxidants which help reduce stress. Current research has shown that Matcha green tea helped to reduce anxiety in mice after they ate Matcha powder.(7) Drinking Matcha green tea daily can therefore help to keep a calm mind and body. How to Enjoy
You can drink this powdered tea, hot or cold. It is gentle enough to drink daily.
11. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is delicious and great for it's many health benefits. It has more antioxidants than blueberries(8). The antioxidants in dark chocolate have been shown to keep anxiety at bay.(4) How to Enjoy
To maximize the benefits, find dark chocolate with 70% or more cocoa. It can be enjoyed as a snack by itself or in cookies and other desserts.
Turmeric is a spice that is often used to add natural yellow color to mustard or other foods. It is also considered to be a power food. Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric and has been shown to assist with lowering anxiety levels by protecting the functioning of the nerves and brain and increasing brain serotonin levels.(9) How to Enjoy
Turmeric can be enjoyed as a powdered supplement added to smoothies or as a hot tea. To assist with anxiety, try taking 500-1000 mg per day.(9)
To sum up, there are a variety of foods that may assist with reduction of stress and anxiety. These foods often contain beneficial bacteria, B vitamins, vitamin C, healthy fats, antioxidants, and other nutrients that may help.
Important to remember, however, is that the best way to see improvement is if we live a healthy lifestyle and eat a variety of beneficial foods. An example would be to make a smoothie that combines yogurt, blueberries, dark chocolate, and bananas. All of these foods in combination could increase the anti-anxiety benefits. Happy eating!
- It's Not All in Your Head - It's in Your Gut Too, William & Mary, https://www.wm.edu/news/stories/2015/fermented-food-social-anxiety-study123.php
- Is Yogurt Good For You? 5 Benefits, Best Brands & Types, Cleanplates, https://cleanplates.com/nutrition/yogurt-good-for-you/
- 8 Foods that Help with Anxiety and Stress, Psycom, https://www.psycom.net/foods-that-help-with-anxiety-and-stress/#yogurt
- What are Some Foods to Ease Your Anxiety?, Medical News Today, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322652#other-foods-that-may-help