The food-mood connection is real and just about anyone alive can tell you as much. When we delve into food history, we find connections to culture, economics, sociology and the environment. And, more and more, researchers are looking into nutrition and how it influences and affects the various systems in our bodies and the pathologies that affect them.
As technology improves and our understanding of medical sciences deepens, so does our connection with the ingredients we consume on a regular basis. The fact is, there are a lot of natural, whole foods that we can incorporate into our diets either as drinks, snacks or meals that will contribute positively to stress reduction. Move over, CBD bath bombs. There’s a new way to relieve stress in town! In this article, we’ll explain a little bit about why stress management is important and then suggest 9 foods and recipes that can help reduce stress, with a few additional recommendations at the end.
Why Is Stress Management Important?
Dealing with stress is incredibly important. Lots of us will make excuses or try to convince ourselves that what we’re feeling is only temporary, but the truth is that both work and homelife are increasingly tough on us and stress can wear us down. Over time, this unaddressed stress is going to show up in our lives as physical ailments, emotional disturbances and behavior issues that we might not know what to do with. So, before things get too bad, it’s a good idea to start incorporating stress-busting techniques into your daily life. One way to do that is by choosing foods that will help instead of hinder your stress reduction, and we’ve got nine great suggestions for you.
Your 9 Foods and Recipes to Help Reduce Stress
- Herbal Tea: HHerbal teas have been used for centuries in various cultures around the world to relieve stress and anxiety, to promote calmness and to help with sleep. Just holding a warm cup of tea is enough to promote positive thinking, according to some research. But there are specific varieties of tea, such as valerian root tea, which have been investigated for their ability to alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety and even fear, thanks to gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), which produces a calming effect. Other popular and more common stress-reducing teas include chamomile, peppermint and lavender.
- Warm Milk: Many grow up sipping warm milk when they are children because, as with a warm cup of tea, it can promote positive thinking and feelings. Many of us give up the practice as adults, but returning to a warm glass of milk or dairy alternative as an adult can be nostalgic and calming and will reduce stress. But beyond this mental association, milk and many dairy alternatives are high in calcium and, according to one study, calcium may be important when dealing with depression, which is often connected to stress.
- Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Juice: Many of us are leading busy lives, not getting enough nutrients in our diets and not staying hydrated. Adding fresh fruit and vegetable juice to your daily routine will be a sound way to ensure a better diet and optimal hydration. It has been shown that you can combat stress with a balanced, nutritional diet and that proper hydration is necessary for optimal daily functioning, including both physical and cognitive performance.
- Dark Chocolate: Sometimes you have to treat yourself and, when you do, reach for the dark chocolate. When eaten in moderation, dark chocolate helps you deal with stress because it contains antioxidants like cortisol that have been positively correlated to the reduction of stress hormones. Of course, overindulging isn’t a good thing, so keep in mind the folks studied consumed only 1.5 oz (42.5 g) per day.
- Nuts: When you reach for a bowl of pistachios, almonds or walnuts, you’re also grabbing a healthy helping of B vitamins, many of which are essential for a healthy nervous system. And your nervous system plays a big role in helping you regulate and deal with stress properly. If left ill-equipped, it can lead to major depressive disorders.
- Yogurt: Choose a yogurt rich in probiotics, and you will likely be doing yourself a favor. Current research is indicating that probiotics may play a role in lessening negative emotions and relieving psychological stress. Researchers want to investigate this link further, but the preliminary indications are positive.
- Turkey Breast and Avocado Sandwich on Whole Grain Bread: Turkey is high in an amino acid called tryptophan, which your body needs to make niacin, a B vitamin we’ve already talked about in relation to relieving stress. The avocado will bring healthy omega-3 fatty acids to the table, which have been investigated as preventatives in mood and anxiety disorders where clinicians use nutrition as preventative medicine. Last, whole grain bread will be a great complex carbohydrate that contains vitamins and minerals, slows digestion to keep you full longer and increases serotonin levels to reduce stress and regulate mood. Toss some crunchy leafy greens into the mix, and you have yourself a beautiful meal to take with you when you’re on the go.
- Citrus Artichoke Salad: Citrus, such as oranges and grapefruit, are well-known for their high vitamin C content. The research into vitamin C in connection with the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders has yielded favorable results so far, indicating that it makes a good add-on therapy for those receiving medical treatment. Additionally, artichokes are a good source of prebiotics and contribute positively to gut health, which may also reduce your susceptibility to stress, anxiety and depression. Oh, and if you’re not feeling the citrus, for a different take on this meal try subbing in bell peppers instead, which are equally rich in vitamin C.
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- Salmon with Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard: Salmon is a fatty fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which we’ve already mentioned are good when it comes to stress. You’ll also be getting plenty of vitamin D, which is suggested for addressing mental health issues and supplementing other therapies. The sweet potato will function much like the whole grain bread in our sandwich, bringing you some nutrient-rich carbs to fight cortisol levels. And the swiss chard will deliver a third of your daily dose of magnesium, a deficiency highly associated with stress levels.
Other Ways to Reduce Stress
Reducing stress through food is one great solution, but not the only one. If you’ve tried to balance that mood-food connection and are still feeling the effects of your stressful life, you might try incorporating some dedicated time for self-care into your routine. This can come in the form of taking a book out to the park to read on your own for a bit of mental stimulation and outdoors time. Or you might ask your significant other to help you out with a little massage for added stress relief. Whatever your preference, make it something you’ll enjoy. Setting aside that time for you to do something you like is key to recharging the batteries and lowering your stress levels.