When it comes to good health, one of the most important things we can do is manage stress. If left unchecked, stress can cause severe health issues if we’re not careful. The following ailments have been linked to long term stress:
- Heart disease
- Obesity/weight gain
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Accelerated ageing
Ironically, many of the foods we eat to feel better when stressed can make us sick. For example, “comfort foods” like ice cream, potato chips, candy and fast food are high in artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, fat, sugar and sodium. Not only do these foods have little nutritional value, eating these foods in excess could lead to weight gain, diabetes, heartburn, and other serious health problems.
Top Foods for Stress
When feeling overwhelmed or anxious, eating the right foods is critical. Here are the top foods for stress:
Green leafy veggies. When people are stressed, they tend to be upset or not in the best of moods. Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce and other leafy greens contain folate, which stimulates the production of the feel-good chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Both contribute to feelings of happiness and positive well-being.
Fatty fish. The body tends to produce cortisol when stressed. Also known as the “stress hormone,” prolonged elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to impaired thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, elevated blood pressure and heart disease. Fatty fish such as salmon contain omega 3 fatty acids, which have shown to lower cortisol levels.1
Tea. Green tea, chamomile, and black tea all have calming effects, making them ideal drinks to consume when under stress. Studies also indicate the L-theanine found in green tea helps to improve the mental health in test subjects with stress-related health concerns.2
B-vitamins. Vitamin deficiencies can affect the body in many ways. For example, a B12 deficiency has been linked to depression and anxiety. B-vitamins include Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), B6, Folate, B12, Biotin and others. Each have their own unique properties but work well together to help ease stress and anxiety. A study of adults over sixty years of age found that the family of B-vitamins taken together reduced depression and improved their quality of life.
The following foods are rich in B-vitamins:
- Salmon and trout
- Sunflower seeds
- Chicken & turkey
- Fortified cereal
- Leafy greens
Snacks for Stress
For those who like to snack or like salty foods, there are several healthy options available. The following between meal treats are great for relieving stress:
Whole wheat pretzels. Whole wheat pretzels (or crackers) are high-fiber snacks that will provide an energy boost and prompt the body to release serotonin, the feel good chemical.
Chew. Studies indicate that chewing gum can reduce cortisol levels, which can help relieve stress. Unfortunately, gum can be bad for your teeth because of the sugar content. Even sugarless gum can be harmful due to its use of artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners. Instead of chewing gum, baby carrots are a viable option. Baby carrots help clean the teeth by removing plaque, have a high water and fiber content, and are an excellent source of vitamin A and antioxidants.
Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is rich in the antioxidant polyphenol, and has been shown to lower cortisol levels in saliva.
Nuts. As discussed previously, if left unchecked, stress can lead to a variety of health issues. Nuts (such as almonds and walnuts) are high in zinc, a mineral that helps strengthen the immune system.
Control Your Stress
For the sake of our health, it’s critical we learn how to effectively deal with stress. If ignored, stress can have a devastating impact on our overall well-being. Instead of relying on comfort foods that have zero nutritional value to cope, we must eat healthy, nutrient dense foods to keep our immune systems strong. A healthy immune system is key to handling the rigors of life, and that includes the stressful situations we are sure to encounter. Try incorporating these foods into your diet today. Your body will thank you.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids Administered In Phosphatidylserine Improved Certain Aspects Of High Chronic Stress In Men. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22575036
- Effects of L-Theanine Administration on Stress-Related Symptoms and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31623400
- B-vitamins in Relation to Depression in Older Adults Over 60 Years of Age: The Trinity Ulster Department of Agriculture (TUDA) Cohort Study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/306920334Effect of Polyphenol-Rich Dark Chocolate on Salivary Cortisol and Mood in Adults. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31146395