Let’s face it – stress is an unavoidable part of life. We are all subject to our fast-paced modern lifestyles, but it’s not always the stressors themselves that are the culprits–it’s how we react to them. Hold the eye roll! Yes, it may seem easier said than done, but stress can be managed before we allow it to take a toll on our health. There are so many ways that we can cope with our stressors, but did you know that food can impact our mental health? According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 40% of Americans reported overeating/eating unhealthy foods during times of stress (1). But this is when our bodies urgently need nourishing, healthy foods to stay focused, alert, and energized! Food has a direct impact on our mental health. Let’s make sure we’re nourishing our bodies and our minds with healthy foods.
Stress Fighting Superfoods
Below are some stress fighting super foods that can help you combat everyday stressors! Try incorporating these into your diet today!
Seeds are a stress busting superfood due to their high magnesium content. Magnesium is a precursor for neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which play an important role in regulating mood and overall sense of well being. In fact, many experts credit magnesium deficiency to be a trigger for anxiety attacks and depression. Manitoba Harvest hemp seeds are the secret weapon against stress – enjoy them by sprinkling over oatmeal, yogurt, cottage cheese, or smoothies..
Whole grains, much like seeds, are also fantastic sources of mood boosting magnesium. Whole grains contain tryptophan as well, also a precursor to serotonin. Their versatility makes them very easy to incorporate into any diet! Look further than brown rice, quinoa, farro, freekeh or sorghum–you can add them as a side dish, a base for chili and stews, or for added bulk in a salad.
The high protein and calcium content of cottage cheese makes it a great option for a quick breakfast when you are too busy to cook anything elaborate. The central nervous system depends on adequate calcium levels for optimal function, and this is especially important in high stress environments. High protein foods regulate blood sugar and keep you satiated for a long time, which also keeps your mood in check. Mix it with some fruit and honey for a sweet and satisfying treat or try adding some to your smoothies for an added protein-boost.
The omega-3s found in salmon, sardines, anchovies and other seafood contribute greatly to emotional well-being. Omega 3 fish oil has been found to ease hostility and activate serotonergic neurons which can positively impact appetite, mood, and emotions and combat mental stress (2). When it comes to seafood, wild-caught is best!
Though often regarded as an unhealthy indulgence, dark chocolate can be a great aid against stress as it may reduce cortisol levels. The antioxidants found in cocoa trigger the relaxation of blood vessels, improving circulation and regulating blood pressure. Make sure to choose dark chocolate that is at least 70% cocoa for maximum benefits.
Live and Active Cultures
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, moods and inhibits pain, is produced mainly in your gastrointestinal tract (95%). Since most of your serotonin is produced in the GI Tract, and your GI Tract is lined with a hundred million neurons, it shows that your digestive system isn’t just for digesting food, but also helps to guide your emotions. The neurons that line your GI Tract are highly influenced by the good bacteria in your gut. This bacterium plays a very important role in your health from protecting the lining of the intestines to providing a strong barrier against toxins and bad bacteria. They also limit inflammation, help you to absorb nutrients and activate the pathways that travel directly between the gut and the brain. Studies have shown that people who consume live and active cultures have improvement in levels of stress, anxiety levels and overall mental outlook. .
So there you have it – 6 stress-busting superfoods that you can begin enjoying today. It is completely possible to combat stress with a balanced diet – some foods help stabilize blood sugar and even regulate your emotional response, truly the most important factor in determining how you deal with stress. Getting enough exercise also can help combat stress so take a walk or a kickboxing class. Remember to always take time for yourself as you feel necessary. So, don’t look too far for stress relief, just kick your feet up and bite into some dark chocolate!
1. American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/eating.aspx
2. Fish Oil Benefits for Depression and Stress. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from https://www.omega3innovations.com/fish-oil-benefits-depression-stress/
3. Page, A. (2013, March 5). 12 Foods that Fight Stress. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.healthcentral.com/anxiety/cf/slideshows/12-foods-that-fight-stress
4. Zelman, K. M., RD. (2014, April 16). Diet for Stress Management: Carbs, Nuts, and Other Stress-Relief Foods. Retrieved April 15, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-diet-for-stress-management 5.Selhub, E. (2015, November 17). Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Retrieved October 11, 2016, from Harvard Health Publications: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-psychiatry-your-brain-on-food-201511168626