Did you know that the foods you eat can help control your stress? There is no question that we all experience stress and/or anxiety through the roller coaster of our daily life with what seems like ever-growing responsibilities. As a result, we tend to reach for junk food and sugar-laden snacks when we are stressed. Occasional bouts of anxiety can be challenging to avoid; however chronic stress can be much more detrimental as it can affect your physical and emotional health. Specifically, chronic stress can enhance your risk of heart diseases and depression among many other things.
According to CDC, more than 4.7% of adults aged 18 and over have a feeling of depression, and 11.2% of adults of age 18 and over have feelings of worry, nervousness, anxiety, and stress in the USA. Many natural foods and beverages have an anti-stress effect. In addition, people can make various lifestyle changes to relieve their stress. Eating a healthy, nutritionally well-balanced diet containing vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and lean meat products can be helpful to reduce anxiety and stress.
How can healthy foods reduce stress?
Stress negatively affects blood pressure and blood flow to the brain. There is also a strong relationship between brain blood flow and focus. Not only can foods help with blood flow but also can help regulate stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These are our top picks for foods to help reduce stress:
1. Dr: James – Eggs:
Eggs are also known as nature’s multivitamins because of their significant nutrient content. They are packed with vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and antioxidants for a healthy body. The considerable component of whole eggs is choline, an amino acid. Choline is an essential nutrient linked with brain health and plays a protective role against stress and anxiety, and boost mood. Eggs are also an amazing source of cholesterol. Yes, that’s right, I’m recommending eggs despite containing cholesterol. There are many misconceptions about cholesterol so let me clarify and simplify. The truth is your body is self-regulating and utilizes hormones to accomplish countless physiological tasks. We also live in a society that is teeming with hormone imbalances. Where does cholesterol fit in? The thing needed to make hormones naturally and thus properly regulate the body is what? You guessed it. Cholesterol.
2. Dr. A – Sauerkraut
I have a sauerkraut obsession. While most people tend to eat chocolate, cookies, or donuts when they are stressed, I reach for the sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is a natural probiotic that helps your body absorb nutrients more easily. This nutritious food helps to maintain brain health, improve digestion, and reduce stress because it helps to increase your gut flora and absorb important mood regulating minerals from your diet. This type of fermented food is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
3. Dr: James – Parsley
Parsley is an herb that is packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants can reduce inflammation that is caused by chronic stress. Parsley is rich in carotenoids and flavonoids that are potent antioxidants. Specifically, these reduce stress on the retina.
4. Dr. A – Garlic
Garlic increases the levels of glutathione in the body. This antioxidant is linked to reducing the symposium of anxiety, depression, and stress. Glutathione also plays a very important role in protecting the mitochondria, which is the powerhouse of your cells. I add garlic to everything from salad to pasta to casseroles and it is a must have in all of my home made dressings.
5. Dr. James – Broccoli
Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli are rich in magnesium, folate, and vitamin C that are proven to relieve stress and anxiety. Sulforaphane is a neuroprotective sulfur compound and offers anti-stress effects. As an important note, these vegetables should be consumed raw or lightly steamed to allow for the release of sulforaphane. High temperature cooking, such as using the microwave or boiling can cause loss of the nutrient content and thus losing the potential benefits of including cruciferous vegetables in your diet.
6. Dr. A – Oranges
Vitamin C in oranges has been shown to regulate blood pressure and reduce perceived levels of stress. Additionally, Vitamin C works in conjunction with stress hormones, such as cortisol, to reduce cellular injury associated with stress. Of note, the human body does not synthesize Vitamin C, which means not only is consumption essential, but necessary for a proper and appropriate stress response by the body. Whenever I am training for a race, I always increase consumption of oranges to help with stress on the body.
7. Dr. James – Blueberries
Blueberries are complimentary to many other foods and dishes yet are simple and pack enough flavor to stand on their own. You can even consult our dog, Paco, on that one. If anyone is eating blueberries in the house, he will be close by until they are all gone. However, blueberries are not just great in terms of flavor, they have been shown to support improvements in mood. Such benefits have been suggested to be secondary to improvement in cerebral blood flow.
8. Dr. A – Sweet Potatoes
I’ve put sweet potatoes on the list because they taste great, can be cooked in many ways, compliment various dishes, and provide blood sugar and stress hormone regulation. As an added benefit, Dr. James loves sweet potatoes so I can selfishly avoid seeing my husband get hangry as sweet potatoes keep those blood sugar levels pretty level for long periods of time. For those of you with significant others that get hangry, you may also be able to attest that it makes everyone less stressed too!
9. Dr. James – Black Tea
Daily tea consumption has been shown to help recovery from stress. Tea contains compounds, such as catechins, polyphenols, and flavonoids, which positively affect neurotransmitters in the brain. Catechins specifically are understood to be protective against oxidative damage to one’s DNA. Research at University College London (UCL) has also shown that black tea positively affects stress hormone levels in the body. Therefore, a cup of tea in the morning could give you additional protection via antioxidants for the potential stress of the day ahead. Or as I prefer, it is a good way to cap off the day and help the body wind down and soothe the body’s stress levels.
10. Dr. A – Spinach
Spinach is a food I choose to include in my diet because it is not only good tasting and versatile, it also contains lots of vitamins and nutrients. Our chickens love iceberg lettuce but for the sake of those nutrients, I choose spinach to complement many of my meals. One very important nutrient that comes in abundance in spinach is magnesium. One cup of spinach provides a good dose of magnesium, which is related to relieving stress and negative effects of stress. Conversely, too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue.
A healthy diet contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, including vitamins, and minerals, to help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Conversely, intake of foods high in salt, sugar, and trans fats may cause an increase in stress and anxiety levels. Therefore, try including some of the above recommended foods and beverages into your diet to help relieve stress naturally. Don’t forget regular acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care can also assist with helping to reduce stress.