If you've got a job, a family or a relationship, it's likely you've dealt with stress at one point or another. It can affect you in many different ways, and if you don't take steps to combat it, over time it can severely impact your health. However, there's a simple way you can start de-stressing right now, and all you have to do is eat.
There are several foods that have been proven to help lower stress levels. If you eat a number of them on a regular basis, you'll be on your way to a calmer, less stress-ridden life, which most of us could definitely use.
These stress-busting foods are packed with natural chemicals that can do things like boost serotonin and cut down levels of stress-inducing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Once your overall stress levels are down, your body will have a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure and a healthier energy. While a lot of the foods on this list are healthy, you'll be surprised by how many of them are also delicious.
Oranges have high levels of vitamin C that not only help boost your immune system, they've been known to take stress levels down a notch. In a German study conducted in 2003, 120 people were given a major stress test and the half who were also given 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C beforehand had significantly lower levels of cortisol in their systems than those who weren't given anything.
2. Fatty fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are powerful nutrients that increase serotonin, and you can find them in abundance in fatty fish like salmon and tuna. They actually work to prevent stress hormone surges and combat heart disease, depression and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). There's even a study that says omega-3s can lower anxiety associated with pregnancy.
Spinach is packed full of magnesium, which helps combat stress-related fatigue and headaches. It also contains fiber, which revs up your natural energy levels. If you're not crazy about the taste or texture, you can put it in a banana/pineapple smoothie. Aside from the green color, you'll never know it's in there.
Pistachios, as well as walnuts and several other nuts and seeds, contain those wonderful omega-3 fatty acids, too. They've also been known to lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation in your arteries.
5. Dark chocolate
Those chocolate cravings you have can finally be put to good use! A 2009 study conducted in Switzerland had people who rated themselves as "high stressed" eat dark chocolate every day for two weeks. At the end, they had significantly lower levels of the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines. It's also known to release endorphins in your brain, which is why you feel particularly good when you eat it.
6. Raw vegetables
Are you one of those people who chews gum when they're anxious? That could be because the act of chewing actually helps release your jaw muscles, which is where you store a lot of your tension. Try snacking on raw veggies instead of gum the next time you get the urge to chew. You'll be getting great vitamins and nutrients with the same action, but without all the simple sugars.
Everyone always hates on red meat, but now there's a real reason to get behind it. According to Tara Geise, a registered dietitian and a representative of the American Dietetic Association, beef contains high levels of zinc, iron and vitamin B, which help stabilize your mood. If you don't want to add too much fat to your diet, try lean cuts, like flank steak.
8. Whole grains
Complex carbs in general help release serotonin into your body, but whole grains are best, because they take longer to digest, so the effects last longer. Oatmeal is especially good since it also has high levels of magnesium and potassium, which lower blood pressure, according to Barbara Mendez, a nutritionist in New York City. If you want to diminish stress for the day, try a bowl in the morning with a side of antioxidant-rich blueberries.
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