De-stressing Starts with Your Diet

It is well documented, the negative effects stress has on your body, but what if exercise, vacations, relaxation techniques or taking breaks isn’t enough?  There are some certain foods that may help you deal with stress and even help combat the negative consequences stress has on your body. Stress has been known to lead to health issues like heart problems, excess weight, stomach and digestive problems.  Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, inhibits functions that interfere with the “fight or flight” response.  Specifically, it alters the immune system response and suppresses the digestive tract, reproductive system and growth processes.

To start the day off stress-free, try a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast.  It is rich in soluble fiber (which helps keep you feeling fuller, longer), vitamin B and magnesium.  Studies have shown a strong link between magnesium and mental health: deficiency in this nutrient can cause irritability, depression and anxiety.  Furthermore, carbohydrates, like oatmeal, can help produce serotonin, which helps keep you calm and fight anxiety.

Fish, like salmon (a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins) or tuna (high in vitamins B6 and B12) are great low-fat sources of the stress-fighting B vitamins.  Salmon can also help boost serotonin levels.

When you need a snack, reach for almonds.  Sometimes just eating something crunchy can help you de-stress.  Nutritionally, almonds are loaded with vitamins B12 and E, magnesium and zinc.  Vitamin E can help fight damage-causing free-radicals, especially those that cause heart disease.  Walnuts are also a great snack, as they have been shown to help lower blood pressure.  This can be critical for those with high stress, adrenaline-fueled days.  Sunflower seeds are a great source of folate (which helps produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure) and magnesium.

If you’re craving something sweet, try dark chocolate.  It is high in flavonoids (which help you relax) and phenethylamine (which helps enhance your mood).   Studies have also shown that eating small amounts of dark chocolate each day can help reduce cortisol (one of the main stress hormones) levels.  Blueberries are also a great high-fiber, low-calorie option to satisfy your sweet tooth.  They are loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C, both of which help counteract the effects of stress on your body.

While not foods these actions can also aid you in managing or even avoiding stress: not smoking and abstaining from alcohol and recreational drugs.  If you feel that even after trying these simple solutions, you still experience high levels of stress, speak with your doctor about your situation; they may have other solutions in mind.