The foods that you eat have a dramatic impact on the stress levels of your body. Some foods can increase or decrease the amount of hormones in your body which help fight stress; whereas other foods actually increase your stress levels. In fact, estrogen, testosterone, dopamine, insulin, cortisol, and serotonin are all affected by the foods that we eat every single day.
Unfortunately, statistics show that almost 40% of those who live in America either overeat or indulge in foods that are not healthy in order to deal with stress. Although eating that box of donuts or bag of chips may make you feel better at the time, it can be disastrous for your overall well-being and health. In fact, after the sugar high comes to an end, you will most likely become very irritable and will have to cope with mood swings and other bad emotions due to all of the MSG, trans-fats, sugar, and other types of ingredients in the junk foods. The good news is that you can help control this vicious cycle by eating healthy foods that will actually decrease your stress, improve your mood, and modulate your blood sugar. The following is a list of the top seven foods that you can eat in order to help decrease your stress:
1. Blueberries and Blackberries
Pigments known as Anthocyanins help give blackberries and blueberries their rich deep color. These types of antioxidants help your brain manufacture dopamine, which is essential for regulating your mood, coordination, and improving your memory. In addition, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, and nutritional editor for Health magazine, reports that eating blueberries helps increase the number of white blood cells which help with counteracting stress and improving immunity.
2. Alaskan Wild Salmon
Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA are vital in keeping you emotionally healthy. Fish such as anchovies, sardines, salmons, or good quality supplements such as Krill Oil are all good sources of these fatty acids. Accordingly, one study which was published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity showed that medical students who took Omega 3 experienced a 20% decrease in their anxiety levels. In addition, previous research indicates that Omega-3 works just as well in alleviating depression as anti-depressants, without all of the unwanted side effects.
3. Dark Leafy Greens
Spinach and other green leafy veges contain a lot of folate and this helps to make dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters. In fact, a 2012 study showed that people who had eaten foods containing high levels of folate had a lower chance of becoming depressed compared with those who ate foods with lower levels of the B vitamin. In addition, it is important to note that people who do not get enough magnesium tend to experience fatigue and headaches which obviously cause higher stress levels. However, the good news is that eating only one cup of spinach can help you to restore your magnesium levels.
Avocados have nearly 20 nutrients that are essential to improving your health. The Nutrition Journal reports that folate, potassium, B Vitamins, and Vitamin E are just a few of the essential nutrients that you can obtain by eating just ½ of a fresh avocado. In addition, one study showed that those who ate ½ of an avocado at lunchtime were 40% less hungry three hours afterwards and 28% less hungry five hours later when compared to those who did not eat an avocado. Since avocados help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you satisfied, they can also help with your stress levels.
Nuts such as almonds are loaded with Vitamin E which helps improve your immunity. Almonds also contain Vitamin B which can help you be less prone to develop depression and can help alleviate having extra stress. You should enjoy around ¼ of a cup each day to reap the full benefits.
Fruits such as oranges which have a lot of Vitamin C can help strengthen your immunity while decreasing your level of stress hormones. In fact, one study suggested that those with (1) High levels of the stress hormone cortisol and (2) High blood pressure returned to normal much faster when they took Vitamin C right before a task that would normally cause a lot of stress.
A medium-sized banana will help you feel full, produce serotonin in the brain to help relax you, and improve your blood sugar while providing 30% of your Vitamin B-6 allowance and only 14 grams of sugar and 105 calories, according to Molly Kimball, RD, who is a certified specialist in sports dietetics with the New Orleans Ochsner’s Elmwood Fitness Center.