Let’s face it: people are stressed. No one is immune to the pressures and sudden changes that fill the unpredictability of life. Stress and anxiety can attack without warning, suffocating you when you least expect it. These emotional states attach themselves to all aspects of life from a job and financial security to family, kids and spouses. Stress and anxiety affect us all in different situations, but the symptoms are universal and we are all faced with times of immense stress and anxiety as the diversity of life continues to change. Stress affects many of us, regardless of age, ethnicity or income. It affects the sick as well as the healthy. Yes, some may handle the symptoms of stress and anxiety better than others, but no one is entirely resistant. Stress and anxiety are a part of life and it’s our job to understand where it is coming from and how best to handle it. Eating and emotion often go hand in hand and we chose ten foods that can assist the body in helping to reduce or manage stress and anxiety. The next time life throws you a curve ball, grab one of these healthy choices before bingeing on the type of comfort foods that leave us emotionally drained and craving more.
When life wanders off its normal agenda, daily routines are tossed aside in exchange for chaos and stress. During these times, restless minds can lead to sleepless nights as the normal routine disappears. Sleep is a critical component to maintaining good health at all times. It’s a vital companion to health when our mind is racing or when faced with stressful situations. After all this time, mom still knows best. Milk has been comforting crying babies and settling wandering minds after a long day for centuries. Before bed, drinking warm milk can help put a case of insomnia to rest. With its high concentrate of antioxidants, vitamins B2 and B12, milk is loaded with the stress-fighting nutrition the body needs. It is also a great source for lactoprotein. Studies show that lactoprotein can produce calming effects on the mind and body. These calming effects help lower the body’s blood pressure, making the Sandman’s job a cinch, sending you off to dreamland. In addition to all this, milk is also a great source for potassium. If you are feeling tense, potassium helps loosen up the body and can relieve muscle spasms. Milk tops this list for its numerous positive effects on both the mind and body, especially during turbulent times.
Next up: Another meal straight from mom’s cupboard. Our second food suggestion is oatmeal. Not only is oatmeal a wholesome meal, it makes the cut for its stress-busting qualities. When shopping for oatmeal, think health not speed and avoid instant oatmeal. Food manufacturers are forced to cut nutrition for efficiency with microwaveable brands of oatmeal. Instead, look for steel-cut or coarse oats and cook them traditionally. Steel-cut and coarse oats offer the body more fiber than their instant counterparts, increasing the probability of enjoying a, “regular” day. Additionally, oatmeal can assist the body in releasing serotonin, a natural chemical produced in the body known for settling nerves. Oatmeal is a satisfying breakfast and popular choice for people looking to maintain energy while making it to lunch without seeking out sugar- and carb-filled snacks. The reason the body feels satiated for long periods of time after eating oatmeal is due to its long digestion period. This is a double benefit because, while the body digests oatmeal, it keeps us feeling full while consistently releasing serotonin. This keeps those calming effects flowing strong throughout the morning. Oatmeal is a great breakfast choice, providing the body nutritional sustenance and a mental edge to get your day off to a great start.
If the brain is releasing serotonin, there is a good chance the body will benefit from its calming effects, helping reduce stress and securing positive feelings. During tumultuous times, the brain releases cortisol, which is linked to spikes in blood pressure and an increase in mental and physical stress. While cortisol plays an important role in the body, utilizing food to regulate this chemical during stressful times can help mitigate damage done by stress on the body and the mind. Spinach is a proven food known to help regulate cortisol levels, fighting stress and offering mental security. Spinach is a great source of magnesium as well, which is essential in maintaining proper health. Spinach makes the list because of the role it can play in managing cortisol.
Cortisol sparks an instinctual response in the brain known as “fight or flight”. It has played a critical role in human evolution, helping us make split-second decisions throughout our history when danger has been imminent. While cortisol still plays an important role in the body, it can also impact our health negatively by increasing stress at times when it is unnecessary for survival. Similar to spinach and its cortisol regulating properties, oranges are capable of addressing these cortisol spikes as well. Not only do oranges help reduce stress, they are rich in vitamin C, which helps lower blood pressure and boost immunity. Do you ever find yourself in a pinch? Grab an orange for a quick energy boost while boosting immunity and managing stress at the same time.
Looking for something to eat with a little more sustenance than an orange that will still help manage stress and satisfy the body’s nutritional needs? If you like fish, a nice piece of salmon checks all those boxes. Eating salmon regularly has been proven to protect the heart from dangerous stress hormones as well. Enjoy up to 12oz of salmon a week with no worries. Salmon is also one of the best sources of the fatty acid omega-3 on the planet. These fatty acids have a bountiful amount of health benefits for the brain and body. Grill a salmon fillet the next time you come home from a stress-filled day. This dinner will help prevent spikes in cortisol and adrenaline caused by stress as you try and settle down for the evening. Salmon stands alone as a premium choice when looking for a nutritionally-superior brain food.
Number six on our list is turkey. On days when you know you need sleep, but your mind is busy fighting its own battles, eat turkey. Turkey should officially take the crown as one of nature’s top sleeping aids. It’s no accident that you find your uncle fast asleep on the couch shortly after Thanksgiving dinner every year. Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan and this is guaranteed to bring on the yawns. Tryptophan is so effective that, as a supplement, it’s a top-selling over-the-counter sleeping aid. Need some rest? Eat a turkey breast.
Looking for a crunchy snack? The physical act and satisfaction of crunching up almonds can break up stress for some. If that isn’t enough to pique your interest, almonds offer a great immunity boost during stressful times. Almonds are loaded with healthy fat and are a great source for vitamins B2 and E. Just a handful of almonds will leave you feeling satisfied and get you to your next meal with ease. For such a small snack, almonds leave a lasting impression.
Blueberries are another handy little snack packed full of antioxidants and vitamin C. These tasty little berries provide the body with everything it needs to protect and repair cellular damage caused by stress. It is just as important to have foods that assist in bringing back optimal health after times of stress as it is to have preventative options. No matter what we eat or how we live, stress can strike at will and it leaves behind more than emotional damage. Cellular damage caused by stress is no match for the antioxidants in blueberries. Antioxidants have the power to neutralize free radicals in the body and one of the best sources for cellular repair is hidden in these little cell savers.
Hey there guacamole fans, you’re in luck! Our ninth food is avocados. This fruit is a great source of vitamin B. Research has linked anxiety with vitamin B deficiency so for those of us looking to relax over a weekend with some chips and guac, this is great news. Vitamin B is also essential for nerve and brain cell health. Avocados contain healthy, monounsaturated fats and potassium as well. These healthy fats and potassium are praised for lowering blood pressure, which can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Asparagus finishes our list of ten foods that help stabilize emotional and physical health. Similar to the link between anxiety and a deficiency in vitamin B, low folic acid levels in the body can leave us vulnerable to feelings of depression. Fortunately, one cup of asparagus provides two thirds of the suggested daily amount of folic acid. Asparagus is versatile and it works well as a side dish with almost any meal. The simple fact that eating just a few pieces of asparagus a day boosts folic acid levels, which then help prevent states of depression should be all the reason you need eat these greens. Whether you grill, steam or sauté, asparagus is a great preventative vegetable you can use to keep the blues at bay.