Taking steps to reduce or manage your stress is an important part of staying healthy. When we're stressed, our bodies react physically, and we become more vulnerable to everything from colds and migraine headaches to hair loss, high blood pressure, and even heart disease. In addition to getting more exercise and sleep, a stress-busting eating plan can certainly help.
Here are 8 food cures for de-stressing your life.
A warm and cozy bowl of oatmeal makes the perfect comfort food breakfast on a chilly morning. But the soothing effects are more than psychological. Oats are a healthy, whole-grain source of carbohydrates, which stimulate production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone that helps you relax. All varieties of oats are great, but I particularly love steel-cut because they're minimally processed and cause a slow, steady rise in blood sugar — a definite advantage for regulating mood.
Researchers at Penn State University found regularly snacking on walnuts may help your body respond better to stress. Study participants who added a small daily dose of walnuts and walnut oil to their diet experienced a smaller rise in blood pressure during stressful events like giving an impromptu speech. Scientists speculate the heart-healthy omega-3 fats may be responsible for the nuts' calming benefits.
Could chocolate's mood-boosting effects be driven by more than just the luxurious taste and creamy melt-in-your-mouth texture? Some scientists think so. One study found consuming a small daily dose of dark chocolate reduced stress hormones in individuals with high anxiety levels.
To take full advantage of chocolate's health perks, choose dark varieties that are at least 70 percent cacao. And of course, try to keep portions in check since chocolate (even dark) is high in calories. One ounce daily (about 150 calories worth) is just the right amount to reap the tension-taming benefits without going overboard. Love these chocolate & cacao treat ideas!
Having a tense day? Enjoy a bowl of whole grain cereal mixed with skim milk — or drink a glass straight up. Turns out special proteins found in milk may help ease anxiety and boost mood by lowering blood pressure and increasing serotonin activity in the brain.
Salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3s, those wonder fats that nourish your body from head to toe. It probably comes as no surprise, then, that these powerful fats also boost psychological health. Studies have found that supplementing the diet with omega-3s from fish oil decreases levels of adrenaline and other hormones associated with anxiety during stressful situations like test-taking. To get more of these healthy fats from food, aim to eat fatty fish like wild salmon at least twice a week.
Ward off a bad mood with nutty, crunchy chickpeas. A one-cup serving provides more than 70% of the daily recommended intake for folate, a B vitamin that helps regulate mood. Low blood levels of folate have been linked to higher risk for depressive symptoms, so increasing your intake of folate-rich fare like chickpeas can't hurt.
Swapping your apple or banana for a juicy, sweet grapefruit may help you chill out. This everyday citrus fruit is a top source of vitamin C, a nutrient that may help people better cope with bad nerves. Soothe away worries naturally by eating more vitamin C-rich produce.
Wipe away the day's worries with a mug of naturally caffeine-free chamomile tea. This calming brew appears to act as a mild sedative and may help relieve muscle tension — and ease anxiety and irritability. Take advantage of this tried-and-true herbal remedy by making chamomile tea part of your evening ritual.
Article courtesy of Joy Bauer's website, found here. Joy is the nutrition and health expert for NBCs TODAY show.