We all experience stress from time to time (or all the time!). Stress and anxiety may be a normal part of life, but luckily, there are lots of things that you can do to help reduce your stress and the effects that it has on your body. Lots of people talk about meditation, exercise, and talk therapy for stress reduction, but did you know that the foods you eat can play a significant role in your stress levels?
How Does Stress Affect the Body?
The fact that nutrition and stress go hand in hand makes perfect sense when you look at what goes on in your body when you’re feeling stressed. The chemicals that flow through your body when you’re feeling stress and anxiety serve an important purpose. However, if you’re stressed too often, these chemicals can lead to inflammation. Inflammation is one of the biggest risk factors for a wide variety of health conditions such as heart disease and cancer. Research indicates that stress and cardiovascular disease are closely linked.
Because stress all comes down to the chemicals and hormones that flow through your body, it makes perfect sense that the foods you eat can have a significant impact on the way your body responds to stress. Let’s examine 10 of the best foods for combatting stress.
Fresh, seasonal fruit is a delicious addition to any healthful diet. Certain fruits, such as blueberries, can also help reduce stress. The anxiety-busting power of blueberries comes from flavonoids: a type of antioxidant that can significantly reduce inflammation caused by stress. By including flavonoid-rich foods in your diet, you can reduce the cellular damage that stress-related inflammation causes in your body.
Studies suggest that these flavonoids can also reduce the likelihood of experiencing symptoms of depression and boost your overall mood to prevent stress from happening in the first place. Blueberries are a versatile ingredient that can be eaten alone or added to recipes such as smoothies or even desserts!
Broccoli is a seriously underrated vegetable! While few children are happy to see broccoli on their plates, this cruciferous vegetable has a ton of health benefits. Broccoli is chock full of magnesium, folate, sulforaphane, vitamin B6, and vitamin C: nutrients that are proven by science to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
If you’ve never been a big fan of broccoli, it may be time to reconsider adding it to your diet. Try roasting it in the oven with a little olive oil and garlic; the right preparation is key to making vegetables delicious as well as nutritious!
Any tea drinker will tell you that if you need to relax, chamomile tea is the best option for a calming hot beverage that tastes delicious. Chamomile has been used for centuries by herbal practitioners as a natural way to relax and get a good night’s sleep. The power of chamomile is backed by science; a study that examined the effects of chamomile on anxiety sufferers showed significant improvements in cortisol levels and anxiety symptoms. If you’re feeling stressed, brew up a cup of chamomile tea, especially before bed, for a relaxing, restful evening and a good night’s sleep.
If you follow a plant-based diet, you have probably come to embrace the protein-packed chickpea, or garbanzo bean, as a dietary staple. However, there’s more to the humble chickpea than protein. This little legume is packed with nutrients that are shown to combat stress, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, L-tryptophan, and copper.
These vitamins and minerals help produce the neurotransmitters that your body needs to regulate your mood. A study of 9,000 people who followed a Mediterranean diet (which includes a lot of chickpeas) found that these people had a significantly better mood than those who followed other diets.
Eggs are another great protein source if you follow a meat-free diet. Eggs are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, including copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and zinc. When it comes to stress, however, the star of the egg’s nutrient profile is choline. This important nutrient isn’t found in a lot of foods, and eggs are one of the few foods that have it in abundance.
Studies show that choline is important for reducing depressive symptoms and supporting overall brain health. Cook up a hearty omelette for breakfast or add a hard-boiled egg to your afternoon salad to reap all of the benefits that eggs offer.
If you don’t care for plant-based diets, fish is one of the best options for including meaty protein in a healthful diet. In particular, fatty fishes such as salmon, sardine, mackerel, cod, herring, trout, and tuna are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is vitally important for maintaining a healthy body. Although this fatty acid is typically associated with heart health, Omega-3 is also important for maintaining brain health.
Studies indicate that a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can significantly reduce depressive symptoms. For maximum benefits, cook fish in a way that retains the most Omega-3; baking, poaching, and steaming are a great option that doesn’t require high-calorie cooking oils.
You may have noticed that most of the most delicious recipes contain garlic as an ingredient. This is because garlic is a delicious complement to just about any meal! In addition to being delectable, garlic also has some significant health benefits. Garlic is rich in sulphur compounds. Sulphur is important for increasing your body’s level of glutathione: an antioxidant that is vital to your overall health and wellbeing.
According to research, glutathione is one of the primary players in helping your body fight stress. To get the maximum benefit, buy fresh garlic and peel it yourself when incorporating it into one of your favourite recipes.
Are you looking to add a little spice to your life? Kimchi is an important component in many Asian cuisines and can add delicious heat to a lot of different dishes. Kimchi is made by fermenting cabbage and radish. The process of fermenting creates important bacteria known as probiotics that are important for your body’s health.
A study showed that consuming probiotic-rich fermented foods like kimchi decreased the symptoms of social anxiety in a group of young adults. Kimchi tastes great with rice and other grains as well as protein-rich eggs. It can also be used as an ingredient in stews and sauces.
9. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are often touted as a low-carb alternative to regular potatoes that taste just as great as everyone’s favourite vegetable. Sweet potatoes are indeed an excellent, whole-food substitute for the more refined carbohydrates in potatoes and contain an abundance of important nutrients such as vitamin C and potassium.
In addition to being tasty and nutritious, sweet potatoes have also been shown to reduce the body’s levels of cortisol: a stress hormone that can cause damaging inflammation. If you’re looking to reduce your stress as well as your weight, consider swapping in sweet potatoes in your favourite potato dish!
Tahini is a flavorful staple in many Middle Eastern cuisines. This tasty spread is made from ground sesame seeds and contains an abundance of magnesium, phosphorus, iron, and calcium. It is also an excellent source of L-tryptophan: an amino acid that plays an important role in mood regulation.
In a study of young adults, diets rich in L-tryptophan led to decreased depressive symptoms and better overall mood. Tahini is a versatile ingredient that can be used in dips and spreads like hummus as well as dressings and sauces.
While it’s probably impossible to eliminate stress from your life, there are proven ways to relieve the physical symptoms that stress can cause. By choosing tasty, whole foods with the right balance of nutrients, excessive stress may just be a thing of the past.