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Foods That Keep Stress at Bay

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A bit of stress is healthy. Stress can be a powerful motivator that gets you to accomplish tasks, goals and get things done that improve the quality of your life. When we’re facing deadlines, our cortisol levels “spike”. This is because stress is a response to danger (for example) – thanks to the spike in cortisol levels. These cortisol levels, when they exceed moderation, become dangerous.

When I lived with my dad, he woke up every day and—within an hour—he’d be cussing under his breath. He’d look at his “to do list” for that day and, rather than organise it in a professional (healthier) manner, he happily opened his arms to the stress tornado coming his way. From the moment, he got out of bed he went deep into “stress mode”.

That’s why, a lot of the time, stress levels are directly linked to our diets. I’m not talking about eating healthily—which we need to do anyway–, I’m talking about specific foods that directly tackle stress. Here is a list of those foods.

1. Turkey 

Turkey is a powerful stress-reducer for one reason: it is loaded with tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid neurotransmitter that helps your body produce serotonin. Serotonin is linked to our moods and behaviours, often affecting how we feel throughout the day. A lack of serotonin leads to depression and anxiety.

Once serotonin enters our systems, however, it’s converted into melatonin. Melatonin is scientifically proven to calm you down, which is why turkey should be added to any meal you’re making. (It can even be chopped into a healthy salad.)

2. Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is often linked to “sleepy time tea”, where chamomile is the leading ingredient. Yes, chamomile can make you sleepy (when taken at night). This is because chamomile effectively relaxes our entire bodies and eases our mind into a state of pure calmness. Chamomile, in general, is a formidable opponent against stress, especially if you’re liable to put yourself into stress-induced menopause.

3. Spinach 

Spinach is instantly valuable for reducing stress, thanks to its high levels of magnesium. Magnesium is responsible for relaxing our nerves and calming down our muscles, preventing tension and cramps. Spinach has an unbelievable amount of a neurotransmitter called folate (vitamin B9). Folate not only curbs depression (and makes it easier to manage), but also play their part in reducing stress. Spinach helps you think clearly, and is effective for wiping away “brain fog”. Next time you make a meat sandwich, throw on a few spinach leaves to receive these benefits.

4. Oatmeal 

Oatmeal is plentiful in serotonin. Serotonin (as we talked about earlier) lowers cortisol levels and stress hormones. Oatmeal’s also rich with potassium, a nutrient that stops tense muscle spasms. (As well as lowering blood pressure.) Best of all, oatmeal doesn’t take a long time to prepare. When you’re short on time in the mornings, all you need is a bagel, a bowl of oatmeal, and a 2-egg omelette for a filling—and stress killing—breakfast. 

5. Asparagus

If you’re averse to asparagus, it’s time to reconsider including them in your daily meals. Since asparagus is also high in vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin E, eating them with grass-fed beef will drown you in nutrients (in a good way). All these nutrients play a vital part due to its anti-inflammatory properties and powerful antioxidants in helping you keep your stress levels in check. (Plus, it has another antioxidant called glutathione, which protects your skin from sun damage. This fact makes it a perfect companion for you to enjoy the last few days of sunny Summer.)

6. Oranges

Oranges directly lower your cortisol levels and regulates your blood pressure. This is because oranges have more than your fair share of vitamin C, a so called “Stress Buster”. Vitamin C improves your physical and mental health. Don’t go reckless with peeling oranges – a lot of the valuable nutrients are on the white skin.

You can eat oranges whole, or make an aroma spray out of them. Buy “orange” essential oil, dilute it in a spray bottle, and spritz your home/office whenever you feel stress. The quick burst of this heavenly scent “attacks” your senses (and stress) as soon as you spray.

7. Beef (Grass-Fed)

Aside from being healthier overall (due to the lack of injected hormones), grass-fed beef is packed with antioxidants – such as vitamin C, E and beta-carotene. However, grass-fed beef tends to have more Omega-3 fatty acids, which is instrumental in reducing stress. Note that grass-fed beef tends to be a lot more expensive than grain-fed beef, and it pays to keep this in mind.

8. Salmon 

Salmon is considered a “super food” by many health experts; it’s no understatement to say they’re a “powerhouse of nutrition”. Aside from improving our heart health, eyesight, and promoting healthier skin, wild salmon relieves stress. How? Thanks to it’s Omega-3 content – and salmon helps secrete a hormone-like substance called Prostaglandin, which directly fights stress.

9. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a big player in the “health” craze that’s sweeping our culture. These potatoes are also a powerhouse for their magnesium, which directly fights fatigue and stress. With good reason: they’re plentiful in vitamin A, vitamin B5 and B6, riboflavin, and carotenoids. Just one large sweet potato gives you 100% of your daily intake value of vitamin A. They can be cut into fries, “chips”, mashed or however you eat regular “white” potatoes.

10. Blueberries

Blueberries (and blackberries) are rife with antioxidants called Anthocyanins. These are responsible for helping your brain produce dopamine – which improves your mood, memory and hand-eye coordination. Blueberries additionally contain a secret, stress-killing weapon: they help certain white blood cells. These blood cells particularly combat against stress.

All kinds of berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, etc. are rich in vitamin C – which also fights stress by significantly reducing cortisol levels. You can sprinkle berries on oatmeal, blend them in your favourite smoothie, enjoy them on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and more.

11. Cashews

Cashews are amazing – they’re high in zinc. Not having enough zinc makes you more susceptible to anxiety. Unregulated, anxiety snowballs into stress – and so begins the avalanche of frustration. However, cashews are also loaded with iron, magnesium, Vitamin B6 and tryptophan. All of these nutrients are proven to reduce depression – and make you healthier overall. Cashews are particularly useful for adding a nice, crunchy texture to any chicken stir-fry you have planned. (Or eat them whole. There’s no wrong way to enjoy cashews, because they’re so versatile)

12. Green Tea

Green tea is a “heavyweight” when it comes to making you healthy. Not only does green tea lower cortisol levels (the “stress hormone” responsible for turning you into a raging bull), but green tea has also been proven to:

  • Improve brain function
  • Reduces anxiety
  • Stabilise energy levels
  • Boosts fat burn
  • Fight (and prevent) cell damage

As well as reducing bad cholesterol, prevent high blood pressure, and more.

Conclusion

Reducing stress, as you’ve just seen, does not include a drastic lifestyle or diet change. Look at the list again: oranges, oatmeal, salmon, blueberries, green tea. A lot of these foods can be bought at the grocery store and easily put into your daily meals. When unregulated, stress can turn your life—even your everyday routine—into a train-wreck. Stress is not fun, and you owe it to yourself to do all you can to manage stress.


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