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We live in stressful times. And when you feel your stress level rising, your first instinct may be to reach for a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream. While these foods may briefly make you feel better, there are smarter alternatives that supply valuable nutrients and better relieve stress in the long term. According to the Journal of Nutrition & Food Sciences, “A nutritious, well-balanced diet has powerful stress-reducing benefits that improve brain functioning, shore up immune function, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and reduce toxins from the body.” Let’s look at five delicious foods that can be easily integrated into a balanced diet to help lower your stress levels.
Fish like herring, mackerel, halibut, tuna, salmon, sardines, and lake trout are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Scientists are currently investigating whether these fish oils may help ease stress and other mood disorders since depression is less common in nations where people eat large amounts of fish. The connection? Omega-3s may make it easier for serotonin, the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness, to more easily pass through cell membranes and multiply. These fatty acids also have an anti-inflammatory effect that may help relieve depression.
Nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and Brazil nuts, are packed with nutrients. They are high in B vitamins, an important part of a healthy diet that can help reduce stress. They are also rich in minerals such as magnesium, which research has found affects anxiety and stress levels. Brazil nuts, in particular, are high in selenium, which may improve mood by reducing inflammation, often linked with anxiety. And walnuts offer both omega-3 fatty acids and uridine, which in combination are believed to act as a natural antidepressant. Of course, nuts tend to be high in calories, so it is essential to limit servings to just a handful a day.
Broccoli is one of the most widely available and versatile of the cruciferous vegetables. These nutritional powerhouses offer a number of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. Cruciferous vegetables are concentrated food sources of some essential nutrients, including magnesium, vitamin C, and folic acid, which have been linked to improvements in mental health disorders like depression. Broccoli, in particular, is rich in sulforaphane, a compound that may produce calming and antidepressant effects. Additionally, just one cup of cooked broccoli delivers over 20% of the recommended daily value of vitamin B6, associated with a lower risk of anxiety and depression in women.
Blueberries may be small, but they are packed with nutrients, including vitamin C and antioxidants. These flavonoid antioxidants have been shown to have neuroprotective effects, including fighting the free radicals that negatively affect memory. They also reduce stress-related inflammation, which helps protect against stress-related cellular damage. When these antioxidants are combined with vitamin C, they combat the stress hormone cortisol, helping to improve mood. And although blueberries are naturally sweet, their high fiber content helps regulate sugar absorption in the bloodstream, reducing fluctuations that may affect mood.
Enjoying a portion of delicious, dark chocolate can help improve your mood regardless of any actual chemical effects. However, it is also a rich source of antioxidants and polyphenols, as well as other powerful compounds that may help reduce stress by lowering levels of stress hormones in the body. Chocolate has a high tryptophan content, which can raise serotonin levels and improve mood. In addition, cocoa beans are a concentrated source of caffeine and theobromine, a bitter alkaloid of the cacao plant, which positively influences mood and alertness. Finally, dark chocolate is a good source of minerals essential to mental and physical health, including iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc. To maximize benefits, look for dark chocolate featuring 70% cocoa or more. And remember, commercial chocolate contains added sugars and fats, so limit serving size to about one ounce.
You have to deal with many factors that can bring stress into your life. Fortunately, the food you consume every day can serve as an ally in helping you combat this stress and reduce its harmful effects on your body and mind. The foods listed above can all be part of a well-balanced diet that will lead to good health and help you effectively deal with the pressures you face in today’s stressful world.
Published on May 12, 2021
<p>This article will help readers manage stress by explaining the health benefits of five nutritious foods: fatty fish, nuts broccoli, blueberries, and dark chocolate.</p>