By Marcus Fernandez
Stress. That word alone can make your pulse quicken and palms sweat, and adding a major stress-inducing event like an accident can send you reeling faster than you can say, “chocolate cake.” Turning to comfort food may seem like the obvious answer, but when it comes to combating stress levels, some foods can actually help relieve the strain. Here are seven to choose when you’re feeling down.
Stress Free Shiitake Mushrooms
Known for their medicinal properties, these hearty and flavorful mushrooms can boost immune function, reduce cholesterol, and even help protect blood vessels. They’re also rich in B vitamins, and a good source of Vitamin D and dietary fiber, which keeps you feeling full and satisfied. Eat them raw, cooked or dried, and revel in the versatility of this low-calorie super food.
Laid Back Leafy Greens
When anxiety is on the rise, going green is the perfect way to lower it. Leafy greens like spinach, romaine, arugula, and kale are packed with nutrition that a lot of other foods simply don’t offer. Filled with magnesium, essential B vitamins (like vitamin B6), and calcium, leafy greens are necessary to combat mental stress and keep blood sugar, blood pressure, and cortisol levels low. Better yet, eating more greens can curb your cravings for sugary and fatty foods. That’s a win-win!
Anxiety Alleviating Avocados
Heard enough about B vitamins, yet? These essential nutrients provide energy for the body by converting food into fuel, and the green, pear-shaped avocado is full of them. Research shows that adding a slice of avocado to your meal can fill you up faster and make you less inclined to stress eat later. Bonus: avocados are a natural moisturizer. Combine yogurt, raw honey and avocado for a wrinkle-reducing face mask that hydrates your skin.
We know cranberries and cranberry juice can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), but the antioxidant-rich fruit packs a surprising number of additional health benefits. From better immune function to decreased blood pressure, and ulcer prevention to improved dental health, this berry does it all. Plus, at just 25 calories per half cup, you can enjoy the benefits without the guilt.
Breathe Deep Bananas
B-A-N-A-N-A spells superfruit. A good source of vitamins, minerals and fiber, bananas are one of the most widely consumed fruits on the planet. They contain high levels of tryptophan (that Thanksgiving Day nap inducer), which the body converts to mood-elevating serotonin. They also pack that one-two punch: vitamin B6 and magnesium. Combined, these two elements help to relax muscles and improve sleep.
When it comes to walnuts, a little goes a long way. Just one-quarter cup of walnuts provides more than 100 percent of your daily recommended value of plant-based omega-3 fats. In 2010, researchers from Penn State conducted a study which found that including walnuts and walnut oil in the diet lowered both resting blood pressure and blood pressure responses to stress. All the more reason to scoop up a handful of this tasty treat!
Take-it-Easy Turkey Breast
Remember our good friend, serotonin? Turkey is full of the amino acid tryptophan, which signals the brain to release the feel-good chemical into our system. Recent studies have shown that even tryptophan on its own can have a calming effect on the body. Don’t worry if you’re not a fan of turkey – other foods high in tryptophan include fish, seeds, lentils, nuts, oats, eggs, and beans. Try one or all of them and give yourself a much needed boost.
Now that you have the necessary information, put it to use by incorporating some of these stress relieving foods into your next recipe. Here are a few to get you started!