With the holiday season seemingly beginning earlier and earlier, the accompanying stress can be overwhelming. When faced with stress, many of us turn toward food to make us feel better. So-called “comfort foods” start calling when stress rears its ugly head. Chances are, your favorite comfort food isn’t a healthy choice. Ice cream, potato chips, leftover Halloween candy, and other junk food may make you feel better in the short term, but it won’t help reduce your stress levels. Instead, battle stress with these foods, known to help ease tension.
- Nuts – Nuts are high in magnesium, a vital nutrient when in it comes to our body’s natural stress coping mechanism. Many of us are magnesium deficient. The RDA for adults is between 320 and 420mg daily and the average American only gets about 250mg daily. A common sign of magnesium deficiency is an inability to manage stress, and the physical ramifications of that are high blood pressure, insomnia, fatigue, or loss of appetite. Look for pre-packaged raw varieties of nuts including, almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts.
- Strawberries – Strawberries are surprisingly high in vitamin C, which has been proven to have a significant effect on stress levels. Increased vitamin C consumption has been shown to help people cope with stressful situations. In one study, levels of cortisol (one of the stress hormones) decreased rapidly in subjects given vitamin C supplements, and the blood pressure of the study participants returned to normal more quickly in the vitamin C group than the control group.
- Dark Chocolate – Not all chocolate is bad. A study out of the Nestlé Research Center found that people who deemed themselves “highly stressed” had lower levels of the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines in their system after two weeks of eating dark chocolate every day for two weeks. Don’t worry, multiple studies have verified their findings, and they also found that dark chocolate buffers the effects of stress in humans. As a rule of thumb, high quality dark chocolate comprises at least 70% cocoa, often resulting in a product with less sugar.
- Wild Salmon – If you don’t like fish, you have good reason to be stressed. But you can get the same benefits from a high-quality omega-3 supplement. A study out of Ohio State University found that students who took regular omega-3 supplements had a 20% reduction in their anxiety levels, in comparison to students who were fish-free and didn’t take supplements. If you know you have a big day ahead, plan to have some lox with breakfast or salmon on your salad. It can help fight those overwhelmed feelings from stress and keep you focused.
- Black Tea – A study published in the journal Psychopharmacology found that black tea drinkers are better able to manage stress than their herbal-sipping counterparts. Not only were black tea drinkers generally less stressed out, they were also able to return their body to homeostasis more quickly after a stressful situation than non-black tea drinkers.