Many people use food as a way to cope with a range of emotions, too often when faced with stressful scenarios, we’re reaching for high-calorie and fat-laden disasters. The foods we usually choose to stress eat lead to higher levels of feel-good brain chemical serotonin and, at least temporarily, make us think we’re beating the blues.
But searching for solace at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s can, for obvious reasons, lead to weight gain, which is likely to only cause more stress. Before you turn to your typical comfort foods, check out these seven healthy picks having natural stress-reducing powers of their own.
Unlike coffee, tea has a reputation as a sip meant for sleepy time. And while there is some caffeine in certain types of tea, both black and green varieties can help you relax. Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine, which has been linked to reducing anxiety and promoting sleep.
There’s some benefit to craving something chocolaty when times get tough. Regular chocolate eaters have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood.
And, like tea, dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids, known for their relaxing properties.
You may also benefit from a boost in feel-good chemicals in the brain, simply because you’re allowing yourself a special treat when you nibble some chocolate.
Salmon, tuna and other fish rich in omega 3s have been shown to ease a stressed mind. Getting sufficient fatty acids in your diet kept cortisol from jumping in the face of stressful events.
Carbs naturally boost your mood by kick-starting serotonin production in the brain. Grains with more fiber take longer to digest, though, thereby releasing serotonin at a more slow-and-steady pace. A warm bowl of oatmeal for breakfast can help you stay serene all day.
Magnesium, a mineral crucial to your body running smoothly, helps muscles relax and also calms the nerves. It’s found naturally in green veggies, particularly leafy ones, like Swiss chard and spinach.
A hefty dose of vitamin C helped people bounce back more easily from a stressful situation. Both blood pressure and cortisol levels decreased faster in people given a vitamin C supplement. So reach for an orange — or one of these other foods high in vitamin C.
While it may not exactly put you to sleep, calcium has been linked to fewer mood swings, at least when it comes to PMS. This finding could translate to stressful or anxiety-inducing situations too. A glass of milk is a good place to start — but there are also some more surprising places to get a dose of calcium, like soybeans and kale.