With lots to do and little time, stress eating and unhealthy snack choices are a pitfall we all must try to avoid. Some superfoods may actually help reduce stress and tension, stabilize blood sugar and emotional response. Take note of our picks for top 11 superfoods for stress relief. Stock up on these superfoods and enjoy them with friends to help you relax and rejuvenate!
- Leafy greens
It’s a no-brainer that leafy greens are on our list of top superfoods for stress relief. Leafy green veggies like spinach contain folate which produces dopamine, a pleasure inducing brain chemical. Spinach is also rich in magnesium and potassium which are important for your cardiovascular system and for healthy nerves and muscles. Research has shown that people who eat more fruits and veggies are calmer, happier and more energetic.
- Turkey breast
Aside from the food coma you anticipate on the holidays from turkey tryptophan, an amino acid found in protein rich foods like turkey helps produce serotonin, a chemical which regulates hunger, feelings of happiness and well-being. Tryptophan has a calming effect on people and also tends to cause people to be more agreeable. Other foods high in tryptophan include nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, lentils, oats, beans and eggs.
Carbohydrates can help the brain produce serotonin which is the same substance regulated by antidepressants. Complex carbs like oatmeal won’t contribute to increased blood glucose levels because whole grains are high in fiber and are digested more slowly than foods made up of mostly simple carbohydrates (sugars). Whole-grain fiber helps stabilize blood sugar and gives you sustained energy.
Yogurt contains friendly bacteria that happily populate your digestive system. The bacteria help to keep your digestive system healthy by keeping the bad bacteria and yeast at bay, while the good bacteria make short-chain fatty acids that help to maintain and repair the walls of your digestive tract. Gut bacteria can contribute to stress so eating yogurt with probiotics can reduce brain activity in areas that handle emotion, including stress.
Anxiety hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol can increase during stress. Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have anti-inflammatory properties that may help counteract the negative effects of stress hormones. Not a fish lover? Get your omega-3s in supplement form. Studies have shown significant reductions in anxiety levels for people who take omega-3 supplements.
The rich dark color in blueberries provides lots of antioxidants that protect the cells in your body from damage by free radicals. This damage can come from a variety of factors including stress. Blueberries have more antioxidants than any other commercially grown fruit, but many other berries like cranberries and strawberries are chock full of antioxidants and phytonutrients which help improve your body’s response to stress and fight stress-related free radicals.
Cherries contain a hormone called melatonin, which is best known as a sleep inducer, but melatonin may also help to elevate mood and fight depression. Melatonin may work well in combination with the phytochemicals that are found in cherries. Additionally, cherries contain quercetin, a flavonoid best known as a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory agent.
- Dark chocolate
You can add stress relief to the list of health benefits associated with eating dark chocolate! Research has shown that small amounts of dark chocolate can reduce your stress hormones including cortisol. Cocoa is rich in flavonoids that reduce inflammation and protect the cells in your body from damage. Dark chocolate contains tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to produce serotonin. Chocolate also contains the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, as well as phenolethylamine, a biochemical that mimics the feeling of being in love.
Milk contains some of the amino acids (particularly L-tryptophan, a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin that your body creates) that help you sleep. Fortified milk contains vitamin D which is thought to boost happiness. Studies have shown lowered risk of panic disorders for people who had sufficient vitamin D intake. Other foods high in vitamin D include salmon, egg yolks and fortified cereal.
Flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds all contain lots of magnesium. So do yogurt, nuts, greens and fish. Magnesium helps regulate emotions, alleviate depression, fatigue and irritability. Magnesium also helps symptoms associated with PMS such as cramps and water retention.
Cashews contain lots of zinc which may help reduce anxiety. Research has shown people who have anxiety symptoms tend to be deficient zinc levels. Zinc affects the levels of a nerve chemical that influences mood. Other zinc rich foods include oysters, beef, chicken and yogurt. Cashews are also high in omega-3s and protein.
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Metabolix Wellness Center provides personalized, integrative healthcare for general wellness, anti-aging, athletic performance and weight management as well as more complex medical issues. In addition, our facility also provides aesthetic services and fitness training. Combining diet, nutrition and exercise with evidence based medicine and preventative therapies, our goal is to help our patients achieve and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
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