8 Foods to Help Reduce Stress

When you’re stressed, the foods you turn to are most likely going to be the traditional ‘comfort’ foods – big meals, take-out, fatty foods, sweet foods, and drinks. Let’s face it – we’ve all found some comfort in a tasty meal when we’ve been stressed out or upset about something. However, this isn’t a good permanent solution.

When you’re turning to unhealthy foods you can feel better temporarily, but in the long run, you will feel worse. When your body isn’t getting the right nutrition, you can begin to feel less energetic, more lethargic, and in some cases less able to concentrate and focus. All of this can lead to even more stress.

If you’ve been feeling more stressed than usual lately, it’s important to know which foods are best to choose and which to avoid when it comes to combating stress and helping you to deal with feelings of stress and anxiety. The best way to fight stress is to have a healthy, balanced diet which includes a moderate amount of each of the different food groups.

Filling up on foods such as whole grains, leafy vegetables, and lean proteins as the basic staples of the diet is the best way to ensure that your body gets the optimum amounts of nutrients to fight both physical and mental health problems. When it comes to choosing the foods to eat, some have a range of great properties which help the body to combat stress. Choosing these stress-busting foods will help to heal and calm your mind permanently, rather than providing a temporary fix.

Some of the best stress-fighting foods include:

Avocado

Avocados are the creamy and versatile fruit of the Avocado tree (Persea americana). Avocados can be eaten in a range of different ways – raw, made into sauces, dressings and dips, or in a smoothie.

These nutrient-dense fruits contain vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B5, vitamin E, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous, vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), and fibre.

Avocados contain no cholesterol or sodium and are low in saturated fats. They also contain more potassium than bananas.

Although avocados are high in fat, most of it is oleic acid – a monounsaturated fatty acid (Omega-3) that may reduce inflammation, help prevent heart disease, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Omega-3 fatty acids may also help reduce stress levels and improve mood. Low levels of Omega-3 fatty acid have also been linked to anxiety and depression.

Eating avocados regularly may also help with metabolic health, weight loss, eye health, cancer prevention, and relieving symptoms of arthritis.

Avocado

Blueberries

The blueberry bush (Vaccinium sect. Cyanococcus) is closely related to the cranberry and huckleberry bushes.

If you’re feeling stressed and find yourself reaching for snacks, swapping chocolate or chips for one of nature’s best superfoods is a great way to help you deal with your stress levels and achieve a higher level of calm. Blueberries have the highest level of antioxidants of all common fruit and vegetables and also contain fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese.

Blueberries are high in flavonoid antioxidants which have powerful anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects which may help:

  • reduce stress related inflammation
  • safeguard against depression
  • boost mood
  • improve memory
  • boost cognitive function
  • reduce DNA damage
  • protect against ageing
  • protect against cancer
  • reduce risk of heart disease
  • lower blood pressure
  • reduce risk of diabetes
  • improve insulin sensitivity, and
  • lower blood sugar levels

So next time you feel like stress eating, reach for the punnet of blueberries instead of the packet of chips.

Blueberries

Chamomile Tea

Of course, it’s not all about what you’re eating when it comes to managing stress; what you’re drinking can also alleviate or worsen the stress you’re feeling. Drinking liquids which are high in sugars and caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks, or soft drinks/soda, can actually increase your stress levels if consumed regularly.

The chamomile flower is native to Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America and has been used since ancient times as a natural stress reducer.

Chamomile tea contains anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic, and antiseptic properties. It is a natural sedative and relaxant and may:

  • promote restful sleep
  • reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • relax nerves
  • soothe the nervous system
  • boost immunity
  • treat colds and flu
  • reduce muscle spasms and menstrual pain
  • soothe the stomach
  • heal cuts and wounds
  • heal sunburn
  • heal eczema and psoriasis
  • reduce acne
  • promote skin health
  • reduce the signs of aging

Chamomile tea has long been used as a natural bedtime soother, and it has also been used in clinical trials, which determined that chamomile tea is effective in reducing the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.

Chamomile Tea

Dark Chocolate

Although it’s usually seen as an unhealthy treat, there is an undeniable link between chocolate and our mood. Studies have shown that eating chocolate can actually make you happier. However, that doesn’t mean that you can start munching on chocolate bars every time you’re stressed out – chocolate works best to de-stress when eaten in moderation and as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Dark chocolate in particular is best for you, as it contains more flavonols (a type of flavonoid) and polyphenols, two hugely important antioxidants which can help combat stress.

Dark chocolate is made from the seed of the cocoa tree and is packed with fibre, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. It is also one of the best sources of antioxidants available and may:

  • improve blood flow
  • lower blood pressure
  • increase HDL (good) cholesterol
  • lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • reduce insulin resistance
  • reduce risk of heat disease
  • reduce risk of diabetes
  • improve brain function

Of course, not all dark chocolate is created equal. You should choose a quality dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 70% or more. The higher the cocoa content, the less sugar the chocolate contains.

Dark Chocolate

Walnuts

If you’re looking for a healthy snacking option which will help you to stay better in control of your stress levels, walnuts are a great choice. There is no denying the sweet, pleasant flavour of walnuts and they can be a tasty snack for in-between meals or as part of a desert. A versatile nut, walnuts are great for salads, or add them to a sweet treat such as coffee and walnut cake.

Walnuts contain Omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and anti-inflammatory properties. They are packed with antioxidants – more than any other common nut, and may:

  • reduce the risk of heart disease
  • reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • reduce the risk of cancer
  • improve gut health
  • aid weight loss
  • lower blood pressure
  • improve brain health
  • improve memory
  • assist male reproductive health

It’s easy to add more walnuts to your diet. Simply add to leafy green salads, fruit salads, dips, and sauces. You can bake them in breads and scones, crush and use to coat fish and chicken, serve on cereal and yogurt, chop and add to wraps, pasta, and vegetables.

Walnuts

Pistachios

Another food which is great for snacking on and can also help to combat stress and anxiety in the long term is pistachios. Studies have found that simply eating two small, snack-size portions of pistachios per day can lower vascular constriction when you are stressed, putting less pressure on your heart by further dilating your arteries. Along with this, the rhythmic, repetitive act of shelling pistachios can actually be quite therapeutic!

Pistachios contain protein, fibre, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin B6, thiamine, copper, manganese, and are packed with antioxidants. They are actually one of the richest sources of vitamin B6 and one of the lowest calorie nuts. They also have a higher ration of essential amino acids than any other nut and may:

  • aid weight loss
  • improve heart health
  • improve gut health
  • prevent cancer
  • prevent heart disease
  • improve eye health
  • improve blood flow
  • lower LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • lower blood pressure
  • lower blood sugar levels.

Pistachios are a delicious and versatile nut as well as being fun to eat. Add to salads, sprinkle on roasted squash, stir into pasta, use to make pesto, or add to sliced fruit.

Pistachios

Dark Leafy Green Vegetables

Dark leafy green vegetables should be a pivotal part of anyone’s diet. Along with helping to combat stress, leafy greens are full of nutrients and antioxidants which help to fight off disease and leave your body feeling healthier and more energized. Dark leafy greens, for example spinach, are especially good for you since they are rich in folate, which helps your body to produce more mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is a ‘feel-good’ chemical. Making leafy greens a part of your diet will help you to feel happier and less stressed out overall.

The best leafy green vegetables to choose are:

  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Beet Greens
  • Watercress
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Arugula
  • Endive
  • Bok Choy
  • Turnip Greens

Dark leafy greens are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, and magnesium.

It is easy to add more dark leafy green vegetables to your diet. Simply add to salads, saute with olive oil, add to soups, add to wraps, blend into smoothies, or use to make pesto.

Dark Leafy Green Vegetables

Chickpeas

Chickpeas, also known as Garbanzo beans, are part of the legume family and are rich in L-tryptophan, which the body needs to produce mood regulating neurotransmitters.

Chickpeas are very high in protein which makes them a great meat substitute for vegetarian and vegan diets.

They are also packed with stress fighting vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins (including folate), zinc, selenium, manganese, copper, and phosphorous and may:

  • boost brain health
  • improve mental performance
  • improve digestion
  • aid weight management
  • manage blood sugar levels
  • prevent heart disease
  • prevent diabetes

With a bit of imagination it is easy to add chickpeas to your diet. Simply toss into a salad, blend into soups, make hummus, roast and east as a delicious and crunch snack, smash and add to wraps or sandwiches, mix into soups, blend into curries, add to tacos, add to nourish bowls, put on pizza, make vegan meatloaf, or make falafel.

Chickpeas

In Conclusion…

Planning your meals wisely is the key to not only staying physically fit and healthy, but also to staying mentally strong and being able to best manage your levels of stress. Knowing which foods to avoid and which are the best to reach for to snack on when you’re feeling worried and anxious is important to helping you get control over your emotions and fears.

When you’re feeling stressed, you may be tempted to reach for classic ‘comfort foods’ – usually foods which are laden with sugar, very starchy, or greasy. However, although these foods can make you feel momentarily better, they will actually make you feel worse in the long run.

Having stress-busting snacks such as fresh berries, dark chocolate, walnuts or pistachios, or even a fruit smoothie with avocado and leafy greens in it can help you to feel better in both the short and long term when it comes to stress. When it comes to combating and dealing with stress in the long run, it’s important to make sure that for the most part, you are eating a diet which is healthy and balanced.

Enjoy.

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The content on this website is for general information purpose only.

By providing the above information, we are not diagnosing, treating, curing, mitigating, or preventing any type of disease or medical condition. Before commencing any type of natural, integrative, or conventional treatment we advise you seek the advice of a licensed medical practitioner.

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