Stress is a part of daily life and many people turn to food to relieve themselves from feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or depressed. The problem, however, is that most of us reach for something sugary or fatty. While those foods sometimes provide temporary relief, in the long run they can wreak havoc on your overall health or ultimately counteract your efforts to reduce stress.
Here is a list of smarter foods that–when paired with with regular exercise and daily spiritual conscientiousness–can promote overall health while actively lowering your stress levels.
Almonds contain the stress-reducing vitamin B12 and the helpful anti-oxidant vitamin E that can balance out your emotions as well as counteract the physical manifestation of stress known as cellular oxidative stress. Reach for a half cup of unsalted almonds as an afternoon snack or start off your day stress free with a dollop of almond butter on your whole wheat toast or a cup of almond milk in your cereal.
Depression can be caused by low levels of folic acid and a healthy dose of asparagus can replenish your folic acid balance. Sauté it as a side dish for dinner, mix with rice for a tasty and heathy lunch, or get creative and mix it into a scramble or omelet for breakfast.
Bananas are high in potassium which can help lower your blood pressure. A single banana on its own is a healthy and smart snack on the go. Or, incorporate bananas into everything from cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, or a fruit salad.
Sometimes stress makes you simply want to smash something. Don’t underestimate the power of diffusing some natural angst while crunching down on something satisfyingly hard (and healthful!) like carrots.
Salmon, tuna, and sardines are high in omega-3 fats, which are good for your heart and help equalize stress levels. Pair with asparagus and a side of carrots and you’re regulating your stress levels and eating healthy.
Cortisol is a hormone that causes stress and vitamin C lowers your cortisol levels, as well as lowers your blood pressure. A glass of orange juice every few days can be helpful but resist the urge to turn to orange juice every time you’re feeling stressed, because OJ does contain lots of sugar.
The healing benefits of tea are long known but many people don’t think of using these ancient herbs to reduce their modern-day stress levels. Lots of people choose coffee as their go-to morning beverage but the caffeine in coffee can ratchet up your heart rate and the added accoutrements (whipped cream, sugar, etc) can layer on a physical component to the mental stress you’re already feeling. Instead, choose Passionflower, Siberian Ginseng, and Hawthorne teas, which have all been shown to reduce stress levels.
Turkey contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid that calms you naturally. Choose a turkey sandwich at lunch or a prepare lean turkey soup (instead of chicken) in your slow cooker for a more relaxing meal.
Don’t accidentally sabotage your efforts in mindfulness with foods that undermine stress reduction. By shifting your diet in the direction of the foods above, you can use your body to calm your mind.