Turning to junk food when we’re stressed out is easy, but it’s also counterproductive and leads us into a downward stress spiral. Try incorporating these foods for stress relief into your diet, and spark a positive, upward spiral.
“Dealing with stress in a better way is the key to breaking the cycle of stress eating.” – Deepak Chopra
Stress — even the small stressful events we encounter day to day — causes cortisol levels to rise, which triggers cravings for things like carbs and sweets. The more we eat, the more stress our bodies encounter, and so on. So called “comfort foods” give us a temporary feeling of bliss, but the natural calming properties of certain, healthier foods will help us stay calm, happy, and full for longer.
Stop the stress cycle with feel-good alternatives that will calm your nerves and support your happiness.
15 Calming Foods for Stress Relief
1. Oatmeal. Oatmeal is a comfort food that lowers stress hormones and boosts serotonin production, the body’s feel-good chemical that has a positive influence on mood, appetite, and sleep.
2. Berries. Fresh, juice, freeze-dried or dehydrated, berries are a rich source of antioxidants and phytonutrients that help improve your body’s response to stress. Blueberries especially are known to boost the body’s natural killer cells, a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in immunity. Most berries are rich in vitamin C, which is known to be helpful in combating stress.
3. Yogurt. Probiotic-packed foods like yogurt support the beneficial bacteria in our gut. Research demonstrates a strong connection between gut health and emotional well-being, and points to yogurt as a way to alleviate anxiety and stress.
4. Nuts. Packed with fiber, healthy fats, protein, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, nuts have “cardioprotective, anticarcinogenic, antiinflammatory, and antioxidant properties.” Pistachios, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, cashews, etc — choose your favorite nut (unsalted is better) to spread on toast or whole-grain crackers, add to salads or stir-fry, or sprinkle on yogurt or cereal. Eating nuts daily may even help you live longer.
5. Raw veggies. The complex carbohydrates present in vegetables can boost serotonin production and stabilize blood pressure. Broccoli is high in fiber which improves digestion and helps your body absorb nutrients.
6. Salmon. Rich in magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon helps protect the heart from stress, reduces anxiety, regulates mood, and promotes brain health.
7. Grass-fed beef. Better for the planet, the animals, and the people, grass-fed beef doesn’t have any added hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs that grain-fed beef tends to have. Grass-fed beef is higher in vitamins C and E and omega-3 fatty acids, which is linked to a lower risk of developing depression, inflammatory disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
8. Water with lemon. Lemon water gives you a vitamin C kick to promote stress relief and boost immunity. I’ve written about the benefits of lemon water. Drinking warm water with lemon (and honey) in the morning encourages healthy digestion, wakes your body up, and is a soothing alternative to a cup of coffee.
9. Dark chocolate. Go for varieties that contain at least 70% cocoa, as this can improve cognitive function and mood and lower blood pressure. Consuming dark chocolate in moderation (a bite versus the whole bar) can help regulate stress and anxiety levels.
10. Pumpkin seeds. A rich source of magnesium, zinc and the amino acid tryptophan, pumpkin seeds pack a healthy punch. Magnesium mediates the body’s stress response and supports a healthy nervous system. Zinc helps regulate sleep and mood. Tryptophan supports serotonin production and melatonin production.
11. Tulsi tea. Technically this is not a food, but it’s a stress-busting liquid that deserves attention. Tulsi, also known as holy basil, helps the body adapt to and recover from stress. Tulsi also improves memory, cognitive function, and symptoms of anxiety and depression.
12. Herbal teas. In general, drinking herbal teas like chamomile, peppermint, or ginger can soothe the digestive tract, promote relaxation, regulate mood, and lower anxiety levels.
13. Leafy greens. Dark green, leafy vegetables provide you with an excellent dose of antioxidants and fiber, both known for boosting energy and alleviating stress. The folate content in particular helps regulate stress hormones and blood pressure, supports dopamine production, and lowers your risk for experiencing depression.
14. Asparagus. This green vegetable is high in folic acid, which promotes serotonin production and can help support a positive mood. Asparagus is also high in anti-inflammatory nutrients and antioxidants.
15. Apples. An apple a day may in fact keep the doctor away. Research shows that eating apples can reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and oxidative stress — all wonderful news for your heart.
- What foods do you usually turn to when you’re stressed?
- Do you regularly eat any of the foods on this list, or do you plan to try some?
- Do you have any other favorite healthy comfort foods that you’d add?
Please share your thoughts, favorite healthy foods for stress relief, any nutritious recipes you love, and stories with me in the comments.
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Eat with love. Eat with joy.