Stress is no fun
It's probably safe to say that nobody enjoys being stressed out, but it is a fact of life for many, if not most of us. Job demands, family commitments, cooking, cleaning and trying to squeeze in a social call every once in a while can all take their toll. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and increased abdominal weight gain. Yikes! So what's a busy working woman to do? For starters, you can minimize stress through your diet.
Best stress-busting foods
Check out Levine's top picks for stress-busting foods to stock up on the next time you head to the grocery store:
According to Levine, a 2007 Penn State study found that eating one and a half ounces (about a handful) of pistachios a day lowers blood pressure, decreasing the effects of stress on your body. "The act of cracking open a pistachio shell can also give you a break from whatever stressful activity or thought you are focusing on at the moment," the registered dietitian explains.
One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, is to get enough potassium. Just half an avocado contains more than 450 milligrams of potassium – more than what you would get from a medium banana.
Carbohydrates increase the levels of a neurotransmitter called serotonin. Serotonin makes you feel more calm and relaxed, and Levine describes it as "the anti-anxiety chemical." The more slowly your body absorbs carbohydrates, the more steadily serotonin flows, making whole grains like oatmeal a great stress-reducing food.
A 2003 study in Diabetes & Metabolism found that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids kept the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from soaring. Levine adds that omega-3 fatty acids also help to lower your risk of heart disease and may actually help elevate your mood. She suggests aiming for a three-ounce serving of fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring and light tuna, at least twice a week.
Spinach is a very rich source of folic acid and has been shown to help relieve stress, anxiety, panic and even depression. Add it to salads, sandwiches and sauces or sauté it and add to pasta dishes.
Brussels sprouts are full of antioxidants and actually have more vitamin C than any other vegetable. Just a one-cup serving contains more than 100 percent of your daily vitamin C needs, so don't neglect these nutrient-packed powerhouses.
Up next: Stress-inducing foods to ditch from your diet >>