Stress isn’t fun, but it’s a normal part of life. We all feel stressed sometimes. But with the right foods, you can beat stress from within.
Relieving stress is so important. If it gets built up, your physical health will take a hit. Your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer will increase.1
Management depends on exercise, sleep, and social support.2 But we can’t forget about food, Mother Nature’s medicine. Here are five foods that will kick stress to the curb.
Chocolate lovers, listen up. This sweet treat will make you happy! It’s all thanks to the polyphenols in cocoa.3
As antioxidants, polyphenols protect neurons from oxidative stress. In turn, this prevents problems like memory loss, poor cognitive function, and depression. Polyphenols also strengthen the molecular pathways that control mood.4
These benefits will help both normal and highly stressed people. The good news? Both dark and milk chocolate count.5
2. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish will also lower stress. They’re packed with healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids. The brain needs these fats to function, so it’s important to get enough.
In fact, the brain is partially made of fats. About 15 to 20 percent is made of docosahexaenoic acid or DHA. This is also the most abundant omega-3 in the central nervous system.
Fatty fish is the best source of DHA. This includes fish like salmon, tuna, and halibut. By eating more, you’ll fuel your brain with DHA.6 Omega-3 will also reduce inflammation – a major factor in depression.7
For best results, eat a checkbook-sized piece of fish two times a week.8
Nuts may also relieve stress. Again, it’s all because of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are anti-inflammatory – a property that protects your brain.9
On their own, nuts make a great snack. You can also toss them into oatmeal, yogurt, and cereal. Feeling creative? Make homemade trail mix or granola bars.
Gingko biloba contains bilobol – a compound that’s linked to higher stress tolerance.10 This is great news if you’re feeling tense or anxious. Plus, it increases cerebral blood flow, helping your brain get enough oxygen. No wonder gingko biloba is a traditional remedy.11
To take gingko biloba, drink it as a tea or supplement. However, if you’re taking blood-thinning medication, be careful. Gingko may increase the risk of bleeding.12
5. Fortified Milk
Vitamin D deficiency has a strong link with depression. Luckily, fortified milk is a wonderful source.13 One cup has 115 to 124 IU – a decent portion of the recommended 600 IU.
Not many foods naturally contain vitamin D. Therefore, you’ll need to get it from fortified foods like milk or cereal. Sun exposure can also help your skin make it, but too much isn’t safe.14
Some stress is healthy. It fuels motivation, productivity, and inspiration. But if it piles on, your physical health will suffer. Do yourself a favor and eat for stress relief.
|↑1, ↑3, ↑5||Al Sunni, Ahmed, and Rabia Latif. “Effects of chocolate intake on perceived stress; a controlled clinical study.” International journal of health sciences 8, no. 4 (2014): 393.|
|↑2||5 Things You Should Know About Stress. National Institute of Mental Health.|
|↑4||Dias, Gisele Pereira, Nicole Cavegn, Alina Nix, Mário Cesar do Nascimento Bevilaqua, Doris Stangl, Muhammad Syahrul Anwar Zainuddin, Antonio Egidio Nardi, Patricia Franca Gardino, and Sandrine Thuret. “The role of dietary polyphenols on adult hippocampal neurogenesis: molecular mechanisms and behavioural effects on depression and anxiety.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity 2012 (2012).|
|↑6||Parekh, Amy, Demelza Smeeth, Yasmin Milner, and Sandrine Thure. “The Role of Lipid Biomarkers in Major Depression.” In Healthcare, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 5. Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2017.|
|↑7||Dang, Ruili, Xueyuan Zhou, Mimi Tang, Pengfei Xu, Xiaoxue Gong, Yuanyuan Liu, Hongxiao Jiao, and Pei Jiang. “Fish oil supplementation attenuates neuroinflammation and alleviates depressive-like behavior in rats submitted to repeated lipopolysaccharide.” European journal of nutrition (2017).|
|↑8||Omega-3 Fatty Acids: An Overview and Food Sources. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.|
|↑9||Appleton, Katherine M., Hannah M. Sallis, Rachel Perry, Andrew R. Ness, and Rachel Churchill. “Omega‐3 fatty acids for depression in adults.” The Cochrane Library (2015).|
|↑10||Isah, Tasiu. “Rethinking Ginkgo biloba L.: Medicinal uses and conservation.” Pharmacognosy reviews 9, no. 18 (2015): 140.|
|↑11||Ahlemeyer, Barbara, and Josef Krieglstein. “Neuroprotective effects of Ginkgo biloba extract.” 1998.|
|↑12||Depression. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑13||Penckofer, Sue, Joanne Kouba, Mary Byrn, and Carol Estwing Ferrans. “Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?.” Issues in mental health nursing 31, no. 6 (2010): 385-393.|
|↑14||Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health.|