April is stress awareness month. Stress is a natural part of life, but there are many ways you can learn to manage the stress in your life so it doesn’t overwhelm you.
One way you can reduce stress levels is through diet. When you’re feeling overly tense, it’s really important to be mindful of what you’re eating. Food can either lower your stress or intensify it.
If you tend to reach for unhealthy junk foods or sugary foods when you’re feeling particularly stressed out, you are unknowingly increasing your stress levels, which can set you up for health problems in the future. There are better food choices for when you’re feeling frazzled that can help you de-stress and better manage your emotions.
These 10 foods are good choices to grab instead of that bag of chips or box of cookies the next time stress gets the better of you.
- Herbal tea. Making yourself a cup of warm tea that you can hold and sip can instantly make you feel much calmer. Herbs like lavender or chamomile have a natural calming effect, while green tea is full of flavonoids that have been shown to support brain health.
- Dark chocolate. You can still satisfy those chocolate cravings you get when you’re stressed out; just do it with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. The antioxidants found in dark chocolate may help lower stress hormones in your body.
- Turkey. You may have heard that turkey contains tryptophan, the chemical that causes that sleepy, food-coma feeling you get after a big Thanksgiving meal. But this amino acid also helps produce serotonin, the brain chemical that regulates feelings of well-being and happiness.
- Salmon. Stress increases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, but the omega-3 fatty acids in salmon may help ease the negative effects of these stress hormones and reduce anxiety.
- Blueberries. Antioxidants found in blueberries help improve your body’s response to stress.
- Oranges. Oranges and other citrus fruits contain lots of vitamin C, which not only improves immune function but can help reduce the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which in continuous high levels can lead to weight gain, brain fog, and fatigue.
- Milk. Having a warm glass of milk before bed is not just an old home remedy your grandmother used. It’s a tried-and-true method for a reason: it releases tryptophan that helps reduce stress and contains vitamin D, which can promote happiness.
- Nuts. The repetitive act of snacking on nuts in itself can lower your stress levels, but certain nuts like pistachios, walnuts, and almonds can help lower your blood pressure. Just remember to watch portion sizes as nuts are high in fat, and try to limit nuts to one serving per day.
- Avocados. Avocados are another food that is rich in omega-3 acids that can help reduce stress and anxiety and boost concentration.
- Yogurt. Yogurt contains probiotics, which are important for good gut health. Improved gut health has been linked to a reduction in stress and anxiety and a boost in mood. Make sure you choose low-fat, low-sugar yogurt, or kefir, a fermented yogurt drink.