There is an undeniable link between food and stress. The reason is quite simple: foods contain substances (nutrients, vitamins, minerals, caffeine, additives, sugar, etc.) that interact with our body on a cellular level. The body and brain then respond accordingly. Unsurprisingly, many of the foods considered to be junk tend to produce more stress than, say, fruits and vegetables. (Pretty much any junk food should be considered a “stress food.”) Fortunately, there are also foods that help to relieve stress.
We must understand this relationship and make the right dietary choices if we want to limit stress. And make no mistake: you’d be wise to limit as much stress as you can. Consider these recent statistics on stress:
- 77% of people experience physical symptoms caused by stress (tension, headache, rapid heartbeat, etc.).
- 73% of people regularly experience psychological symptoms of stress (irritability or anger, nervousness, low energy, depression, etc.).
- 54% say stress has caused conflict within some relationships.
- 48% report a disturbance in sleep as a result of stress.
- 48% report an increase in stress levels over the past five years.
- $300 Billion: The amount of money lost by American employers due to health care costs and absenteeism from stress-related disorders.
Good Foods that Help Relieve Stress
“Probably the most common (definition of stress) is, ‘physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension,’ (or) ‘a condition of feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” – The American Institute of Stress (source)
Your diet is one of the most important factors regarding stress. Here are some excellent food choices that will help you relieve stress:
Apples with Tahini
Apples contain a bunch of what are called phytonutrients, which help to produce mood-boosting brain chemicals such as serotonin. Tahini, a condiment made from sesame, is packed with mood-boosting calcium. Combine the two for a real treat!
Balsamic Kale Salad
Kale can be kind of boring to eat by itself, so add a bit of tasty balsamic vinegar! Kale is way too healthy to avoid. In fact, kale may be the best food for helping to relieve stress. It is a wonderful source of antioxidants, which can ward off damage caused by stress. Kale is perhaps the richest food source of magnesium, which is affably referred to as “nature’s chill pill.”
Brazil nuts have a high concentration of selenium, which fights damaging free radicals and reduces inflammation in the body. Selenium is also thought to have anxiety-relieving properties.
Bananas with almond butter
Bananas have a good dose of vitamin B6, which is a natural serotonin booster. Tasty almond butter, which has a nice mix of protein and fat, can stabilize the blood sugar while giving the banana a little kick!
Cashews are sometimes called “nature’s Prozac” because of its high content of both magnesium and tryptophan. The cashew also has a good amount of zinc, which protects the immune system from stress damage.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps
Forget the bread here, as it can weigh you down. Instead, wrap high-quality chicken into some greens to keep your energy levels up. Chicken is high in protein, which helps stabilize mood and enhance focus.
Dark chocolate, when consumed in moderation, can be wonderful in helping to relieve stress. The variety with more than 70% cacao contains antioxidants that can boost both endorphin and serotonin levels.
Rich in the amino acid tryptophan, edamame can help stimulate the production of serotonin. The pod vegetable also contains a good amount of folate, which can boost the mood.
Processed jerky won’t do here because of the extra garbage that’s added. Opt for grass-fed jerky, which is rich in vitamins C and E, and contains plenty of stress-busting antioxidants.
Green tea contains the natural relaxant theanine. It is also packed with antioxidants.
Eggs are excellent sources of protein, but that’s not all. Egg yolks contain choline, an essential nutrient for supporting memory, and tyrosine for enhancing alertness and improving memory.
Lean beef is an outstanding source of zinc. Zinc is critical for proper brain function, helping to increase alertness, reduce anxiety and relieve stress, as well as prevent depressive symptoms.
Vitamin C is always given props for its immune-strengthening properties, but “C” is also a stress-buster. Vitamin C fights off inflammation in the brain, thus helping prevent the release of the “stress hormone” cortisol.
Oysters are another food rich in zinc. They also contain the natural relaxant, selenium. This combination of zinc and selenium makes oysters a great food for stress.
Salmon with Brown Rice
Salmon is heavily concentrated with omega-3s, a fatty acid that protects the heart from stress. Studies researching the mood regulation benefits of omega-3 are promising as well. Brown rice is a healthy complex carb that can promote serotonin production.
Chia, hemp, and sunflower seeds are high in omega-3s and protein. They are excellent for helping to sustain day-long energy, promote a positive mood, and are also a great food for fighting stress.
Sweet potatoes are a great food to help relieve stress because of their hefty dose of antioxidants. Furthermore, the tastiness of sweet potatoes and their ability to fill you up may help to keep you from reaching for a sugar-laden snack later on.
Quinoa is an all-around potent food for fighting stress. This grain contains protein, which is important to eliminate stress; but it also contains magnesium, which helps manage cortisol and stress levels.
Water with Lemon
Proper hydration is critical for stress prevention. A dehydrated brain and body are an unhappy brain and body. A slice of lemon adds a good dose of vitamin C and antioxidants.
Whole Grain Crackers with Nut Butter
Whole grain crackers contain a plentiful helping of complex carbs, which helps to normalize blood sugar levels. Delicious nut butter provides a healthy kick of protein and healthy fats.