Stress can happen to anyone at anytime - whether it comes from a deadline at work, trying to get ready to host the family for Thanksgiving, or anxiously waiting for results from a test. When we get stressed, our adrenal glands produce extra cortisol, the hormone that causes an increase in appetite. Fat and sugar have a tendency to combat the feelings we get from increased cortisol. But there is a difference between stress eating and eating to reduce stress. Loading up on carbs and fats and other “comfort foods” may seem to help in the short term, but overall, they contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle, which will worsen the stress in the long run and make you feel guilty for overindulging. On the other hand, there are certain foods that may work against the temptation to overeat while reducing stress at the same time. When tension runs high and you feel the urge to snack, reach for one of these foods that may help to reduce stress.
Can Certain Foods Help Reduce Stress?
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great snack to grab, especially when you’re short on time and feeling high on stress and low on energy. Nuts and seeds are loaded with nutrients like vitamin B6, vitamin E, and magnesium which are vitally important to a healthy nervous system. Nuts are also loaded with fat and fiber, which can help you feel full and less interested in overeating. Feeling fidgety? Try grabbing a handful of pistachios to distract you while loading you up with healthy fat, fiber, and plenty of antioxidants.
It’s not a food strictly speaking, but consuming tea, such as green or chamomile may be an effective way for some people to combat stress. You may have heard your mom offer you a cup of tea to relax after a stressful day. Aside from offering warm, soothing comfort, there may be a chemical reason you feel better after drinking tea. Studies on chamomile tea in particular suggest that tea may have a significant impact on reducing stress. Many teas, including green tea, contain the amino acid theanine, which is believed to help people relax and reduce stress. Tea is also loaded with antioxidants which contribute to your overall health and well being.
Salmon and other fatty fish are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that may help combat the negative effects of stress hormones. Omega 3 salmon may also help to reduce inflammation and promote healthy blood flow, two things that can be impacted as a result of chronic stress. Additionally, foods high in vitamin D, like salmon and eggs, may help combat stress by improving mood, particularly in those affected by seasonal disaffected disorder.
Leafy greens, particularly spinach, kale, swiss chard, and collard greens, are packed with folate, which increases dopamine. Dopamine is one of the happy hormones that may help you feel calmer, happier, and more energetic. These greens are also loaded with nutrients, including B vitamins, that can contribute to your overall health and wellness
Turmeric, Saffron, and Other Spices
Spices contain high levels of antioxidants in small doses, which can often have an impact on our mood and stress level. Research is regularly being done to understand how antioxidants such as curcimin found in turmeric, or crocin and crocetin found in saffron relate to anxiety, depression, and our general feeling of well being. Additionally, hot spices such as chili or cayenne pepper release capsaicin into the brain that may boost serotonin and endorphins and can elevate your mood!
Cannabidiol or CBD, and products containing CBD oil are becoming more and more popular as a stress reducer, as well as a treatment for many other things. While research is still ongoing, there are many studies that suggest CBD may be able to reduce stress from social anxiety and that CBD may have anti-anxiety effects on animals.
So, can certain foods help reduce stress? Studies say yes.
When your stress level is high, and you’re reaching for the fridge or pantry, go right ahead, but do it smartly. Instead of grabbing the chips and cookies, choose foods such as these listed here that may actually help reduce your stress. Choosing these foods may help you break out of the cycle and help you get through a stressful time feeling pretty good about yourself. Please note that none of this is intended as medical advice and any concerns over stress or anxiety should be discussed with your doctor.