Reach for these items next time you’re feeling under pressure, under the weather, or just too close to that breaking point. Munching on these stress-free foods will help pull you back into the game.
You’re overwhelmed, overtired, and in desperate need of some mental and physical nourishment. You’re stressed. What can you do beyond throwing in the towel and hiding under the covers? Thankfully, you can relieve stress by eating certain foods and avoiding others.
Bananas really are a magical food supply. They not only give you a boost of energy when you most need it but they are also so quick and easy to eat. You don’t need to cook anything; just peel and enjoy!
If you find yourself lagging in energy and need a boost especially in the afternoon then bananas are the foodstuff to do it.
Nibble on Chocolate
Recent research shows eating dark chocolate can help reduce levels of cortisol and catecholamines (hormones associated with stress), especially for those with high anxiety. Go easy, though: chocolate is calorically dense—eating too much can pack on the pounds and that can lead to more stress.
Sniff an Apple
If you like the smell of green apples, embracing their aroma may help alleviate headaches, according to preliminary research. In one small study, people with chronic migraines reported some pain relief after inhaling green-apple fragrance at the start of a headache.
Brown Rice and Pasta
Brown rice and pasta are well known as wonderful health foods. The macrobiotic diet, which is a well-known health diet, is mainly made up of eating brown rice. These are complex carbohydrates which means that they will give you a sustained amount of energy throughout the day. Great for maintaining high energy levels in stressful situations.
This green veggie is high in folic acid, which can help stabilize your mood. “When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones that affect your mood,” says Geise. “Eating certain vitamins and minerals like folic acid and B vitamins can help keep your mood steady because they’re needed to make serotonin, which is a chemical that directly affects mood in a positive way.”
Even though beef often gets a bad rap, it’s a great dinner option for a stressed-out family. Beef contains high levels of zinc, iron, and B vitamins, which are also known to help stabilize your mood. “People think they should stay away from beef, but it’s very nutrient-rich, even compared to chicken,” says Geise. Ask your grocery store butcher for a lean cut if you’re concerned about fat content.
In one 2010 study, British researchers randomly assigned 340 dental patients to one of two groups. In the first, they diffused lavender oil with a ceramic candle warmer before the start of morning and afternoon clinics. With the second group, the lavender oil was replaced with water. Their findings: the group exposed to the lavender scent reported significantly lower anxiety levels. And if it works during dental appointments, who’s to say it can’t work during other stressful times?
Milk is high in antioxidants and vitamins B2 and B12, as well as protein and calcium. Have a bowl of whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk in the morning to start your day with a stress-fighting breakfast.
Cottage Cheese and Fruit
Cottage cheese is high in protein and calcium. “Foods with a high protein content that aren’t loaded with sugar won’t cause a spike in blood sugar and will keep you satiated for a longer time,” says Geise. Try mixing the cottage cheese with a fruit that is high in vitamin C like oranges. Vitamin C plays a role in fighting stress because it’s an antioxidant that fights the free radicals that get released when you’re stressed. These free radicals have been shown to cause cancer.
Cut Into a Coconut
When you’re stressed, the scent of coconut may blunt your natural “fight or flight” response, slowing your heart rate. People who breathed in coconut fragrance in a small pilot study at Columbia University saw their blood pressure recover more quickly after a challenging task. The researchers speculate that inhaling a pleasant scent enhances alertness while soothing our response to stress.
Are you ever looking for something you can really dig your teeth into when you’re stressed? Try crunching on almonds to get some aggression out. A good source of Vitamin B2 and E, as well as magnesium and zinc, almonds are high in fat, but most of the fat is unsaturated. Like vitamin C, vitamin E has been shown to fight the free radicals associated with stress, and in particular, those free radicals that cause heart disease.
Very rich in antioxidants, blueberries offer a high-fiber, low-calorie fruit option that is also rich in stress-fighting vitamin C. Try them with cottage cheese or as a snack on their own.
A great lunch option, tuna is high in stress-fighting vitamins B6 and B12. Tuna is also a good low-fat protein source. “Don’t load tuna down with fat by using a lot of mayonnaise,” cautions Geise. “Choose a light mayo instead.”
Pack Some Peppermint
Overwhelmed by decadent holiday spreads? A little peppermint may help you stave off the urge to overdo it. When researchers at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia evaluated hunger levels of peppermint sniffers versus nonsniffers, they found that those who wafted peppermint oil under their nose every two hours rated their hunger level lower, experienced fewer cravings and ate significantly less. “While the greatest effect from peppermint comes through inhaling the scent, peppermint gum, mints, and flavored water have been found to produce similar effects,” says Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., lead researcher and associate professor of psychology.
Cornflakes or Crispy Rice Cereal
Although they aren’t low in sugar, cornflakes and crispy rice cereal are fortified with B vitamins and folic acid to help reduce stress. Have them for breakfast with milk. Geise also recommends having them dry as an afternoon snack.
A deficiency in selenium has been linked to increased anxiety, depression and fatigue. Nuts, especially Brazil nuts, are high in this mineral. And you don’t need a whole lot of selenium; a handful of mixed nuts, or just two Brazil nuts, a day will be enough to keep you out of crankiness.
Heal with Herbs
Basil is a good source of magnesium, which helps muscles and blood vessels to relax. It also contains anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that are helpful to those with rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions. Enrich the taste of your food by adding a handful of basil leaves and you get a boost of iron, calcium, potassium and vitamin C. To prevent the loss of its essence and flavor, add the herb only near the end of the cooking process.
Give in to Your ‘Dark Side’
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is used by the body to create serotonin, a neuro-chemical that relaxes the brain. Dark chocolate, aside from its heart-boosting antioxidants, is one food that is rich in tryptophan. When buying, choose one that is high in cocoa solid but low in sugar to get the maximum goodness without the sugar crash later.
Take Your Oats
Complex carbohydrates enhance the absorption of tryptophan, which is in turn used to manufacture serotonin — nature’s Prozac. Oats fit the bill well as they contain high-quality starches that won’t flood your blood with sugars and cause an insulin spike. They are also a good source of soluble fiber which helps to lower cholesterol in your blood. To get the soothing effect from oats, eat them together with some proteins such as nuts, seeds or dark chocolate.
Say Moo for Milkilicious
Is it any surprise that milk has calming effects? Just recall those nights when Mum used to tuck you in with a glass of warm milk. Milk works because it contains the protein tryptophan, which is converted to serotonin. This neurotransmitter not only helps you to relax but also makes you sleep more soundly.
Relish the Taste of Ocean
Shrimps may be small, but in terms of their nutritious value, they are anything but. These small sea creatures are excellent sources of tryptophan and selenium, which are essential for staying cool. They also contain good amount of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and B12. If you are worried about their cholesterol content, studies suggest that the cholesterol in shrimps may actually be good for you.
Start the Day with T
L-theanine is an amino acid mainly found in tea leaves and is found to reduce stress, promote relaxation and enhance mood by stimulating the production of alpha brain waves. Our usual awaken state is associated with beta brain waves, while the calmer and more relaxed state is alpha. Green tea is rich in L-theanine and a host of other compounds that make it sounds like the Superman of the plant kingdom. It lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, reduces blood pressure and prevents hypertension, and promotes weight loss, single-handedly. Wow.
Take off with Kiwi
Our brain needs an adequate amount of vitamin C to convert tryptophan into serotonin. In fact, the brain has a special vitamin C “pump” that draws extra vitamin C out of the blood and concentrates it in the brain. Kiwi fruit is one vitamin C factory that will satisfy your recommended daily intake of vitamin C with just one fruit.