Can You Eat Your Way to a Stress-Free Life?
We’ve all heard the phrase “comfort food.” It’s the food we turn to when we are sad or stressed. I’m sure you have your favorites! But while this food may be comforting in the moment, it isn’t the best choice for long-term mental, emotional and physical health.
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Here’s a list of six amazing foods that fight stress. There’s something for everyone on it, whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, living the low-carb lifestyle or following another eating plan. If you incorporate one or all of these foods into your diet, you’ll help your body fight stress and feel better.
According to Reader’s Digest, dark chocolate is “the most potent endorphin-producing food on earth,” and it contains more than 300 different compounds that both calm and slightly stimulate the brain. It’s packed with stress-fighting, mood-boosting properties. Look for chocolate that contains at least 70% (or more) cocoa to reap the benefits.
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Nuts and Seeds
Packed with protein and heart-healthy Omega-3s, nuts satisfy that craving for something crunchy. They also contain healthy fats that help lower cholesterol. When eaten in moderation (about a dozen), they can really improve your mental health. Sunflower seeds, in particular, produce dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical.
Milk contains the amino acid, tryptophan. Once metabolized, it turns into serotonin, a naturally-occurring neurotransmitter that boosts our moods. In addition, the magnesium, calcium and potassium found in milk have been associated with lowering blood pressure. Tryptophan also helps us sleep better—something stressed-out people don’t always do well. Turkey, chicken, cheese, bananas and peanut butter also contain tryptophan.
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It turns out that carbs can be a great food source in the battle against stress. Carbs help produce that mood-lifting hormone, serotonin. Like all foods, eat carbs in moderation to reap the benefits, and make good choices. Oatmeal is an excellent option.
High in Omega-3 fatty acids, fish like salmon are an excellent food choice in fighting stress. Foods high in Omega-3 help reduce the production of cortisol, a naturally occurring stress hormone and the number-one culprit in producing belly fat.
High in magnesium among other vitamins and minerals, leafy greens help you tackle stressful situations with less emphasis on the stress. Try kale or spinach—the greener the better!
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Real Food vs. Supplements
When looking for ways to beat stress, we sometimes go for vitamins and supplements that we can easily swallow and forget about. Whether or not your diet mainly consists of not-so-good-for-you foods, supplements can help. However, the best way to absorb healthy, mood-boosting nutrients into the body is through food that is natural, unprocessed and not chemically engineered. Eating organic may seem pricey, but having a healthy, optimally-functioning body and mind are priceless. Look for foods that contain magnesium, Omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid and other compounds that increase serotonin levels in the brain to fight stress effectively.
It’s a simple equation: Good food choices and good health equal less stress.