The act of eating and sharing food is inherently meant to make us feel good. Sometimes though, it can be easy to get caught up in the hectic pace of everyday life. When we’re stressed about our jobs, our lives, the future, are we really enjoying simple pleasures?
Luckily, there are foods that will actually help you relax. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean ice cream for dinner. Everything you eat is made up of different nutrients, so it makes sense that different things will have different effects on you. A good rule of thumb is to eat nutrient rich, hydrating foods when you’re feeling a bit down.
Here are some superstar foods you should be adding to your diet to reduce stress and promote restful sleep.
Nuts, especially walnuts and almonds, contain a number of stress-fighting nutrients and good fats. Magnesium, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids all work to alleviate anxiety and protect your heart against stress. Nuts are also an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant which can help treat anxiety. Many nuts are also a source of melatonin, which is a sleep-regulating hormone.
Use them in salads, sprinkled onto oatmeal, or by the handful as a snack.
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, and herring, are incredibly high in omega-3 fatty acid, which has a strong connection to brain function as well as mental health. Studies show that consuming omega-3 greatly improves people’s ability to deal with stress, reduce anxiety, and alleviate symptoms of depression. Salmon and sardines are also among the few foods that contain mood-boosting vitamin D.
Try swapping out other proteins for a serving of fatty fish two times a week.
Similar to nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin) are super high in magnesium. Often tied to mood regulation, magnesium helps fight depression and anxiety. Too much stress can negatively affect your magnesium intake, which is known for being a natural relaxant for your body and mind. Up your seed intake to help fight the release of stress hormones.
Like nuts, you can add seeds to salads, trail mix, granola, or just scoop ‘em by the handful.
We know chocolate is delicious, but did you know it also has multiple stress-reducing properties? Dark chocolate (70 percent or higher) can lower levels of cortisol, protect your cells, and boost the blood flow to your brain and heart, lowering anxiety in the process. Chocolate also has high levels of tryptophan, which your body turns into mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain.
Make sure you’re choosing dark chocolate (milk doesn’t have the same effects, unfortunately), and limit to a couple squares a day.
Commonly used in Indian and Asian cooking, turmeric has become a superstar of the foodie world in recent years. The good news is that this hot spice is also a superfood. Curcumin, an active ingredient in turmeric, lowers anxiety by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.
Turmeric is easy to add to meals. Try it in your salad dressing, smoothies, curries, or froth it up and turn it into a latte or golden tonic.
Along with being a calming bedtime ritual, chamomile tea actually helps promote a good night’s sleep. Chamomile contains flavones, a kind of antioxidant that helps to reduce inflammation, boosts your immune system, reduces anxiety and depression, and improves skin health. Chamomile tea also contains apigenin, an antioxidant that promotes sleepiness and reduces anxiety. Sleep issues are often linked to depression.
Consider sipping a cup of tea after dinner to aid digestion and set you up for a cozy night.
Berries that are dark in colour, like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, contain a chemical that helps to stabilize your mood. They also contain a ton of antioxidants, which help protect you from stress, reduce fatigue, and ease feelings of depression.
Add them to smoothies, to top your granola, in salads, or by the handful as a snack.
You already know you should be eating your greens regularly. Green leafy vegetables, like kale, spinach, cabbage, collards, and Swiss chard, are high in magnesium, a super vitamin that helps you feel calm.
If you’re not someone who loves greens, sneak them into your morning smoothie, puree them into soup, or sautee them and add them to pasta sauce.
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