Skip the junk food. Learn which stress-busting foods could help you keep your composure and focus on what matters!
If you’re feeling tired and burned out, you AREN’T alone. A 2017 survey shows that 54% of Americans reported their stress levels as “usually high.” Yikes!
In a world where over half of us are stressed out most of the time, you need relief anywhere you can get it… and that includes in your diet. (Wait, what? Your diet can affect your stress levels?)
YES! Stress is a physiological process that we experience physically and emotionally. Changing your philosophy about what you put in your body can make a huge difference in your day-to-day stress levels. Ever hear the phrase “you are what you eat”? Well, you can feel what you eat, too.
The biggest difference you can make is avoiding processed foods, which are full of sugars and processed oils that cause inflammation. Stress causes inflammation too, so suffering it on top of a crappy diet is bad news all around.
But it’s not enough to know what to avoid. You should also know what to eat since nutrients play a huge role in how your body responds to high-pressure situations.
Here are some stress-busting foods to add to your nutritional routine:
#1: Selenium-rich Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are a good source of selenium and vitamin E, both of which have specific benefits.
Selenium is an antioxidant that reduces inflammation, which is a biomarker of stress (a way to test for it physically). Low vitamin E is linked to higher depression scores (and it’s common for stress and depression to go together).
That said, you should be careful about how many Brazil nuts you eat—as tasty as they are, limit yourself to a few of them a day. That’s because selenium can cause side effects when you take more than 400 mcg per day, and a single nut can contain nearly 100 mcg.
Still, don’t let that scare you off! A little handful of Brazil nuts is perfectly safe and snack-worthy. Or toast a couple in a frypan and crush and sprinkle them on top of your daily grain bowl. Like anything else, it’s all about moderation.
#2: Potassium-rich pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds contain plenty of potassium, which is super helpful if you’re stressed out!
A 2009 study found that 20% of inpatient psychiatric patients had low potassium levels in their blood. And—get ready for THIS one—only 3% of Americans get enough potassium at all! (No wonder we’re such a high-strung nation!)
Luckily, pumpkin seeds contain 261 mcg of potassium per one-ounce handful, so they’re a pretty good source. That’s what makes them one of the best superfoods for stress.
Besides tasty pumpkin seeds, other top sources of potassium include:
- Beet greens
- Sweet potatoes
- White potatoes
- White beans
Try sprinkling a handful of pumpkin seeds on your salad, add ‘em in your yogurt bowl, or even blend them into a smoothie. They also make a great texture addition to pasta and soups.
#3: Flavonoid-rich chamomile
Any time you see herbal tea marketed as a stress reliever, you can bet that it will contain chamomile!
According to Medical News Today, chamomile has these properties:
So, why is chamomile so damn good at making many of us feel better? The answer is flavonoids!
That term should sound familiar to you since flavonoids are part of the entourage effect from various substances in the cannabis plant. Basically, flavonoids are potent compounds that affect the aroma (and impacts) of different medicinal plants.
The main flavonoid in chamomile is apigenin. Pretty much all chamomile extracts (including oils and teas) contain apigenin, which has “soothing qualities as a sedative, mild analgesic and sleep medication,” according to PubChem.
Next time life’s feeling a little too heavy, sip on some chamomile and see if it changes your perspective!
#4: Probiotic-rich yogurt
Yogurt is a powerful stress-buster thanks to its beneficial bacteria, aka probiotics. Specifically, most yogurt contains strains of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria.
So… what makes probiotic bacteria helpful against stress?
Studies have found that:
- Fermented dairy products like yogurt are “associated with an anti-inflammatory activity,” according to a 2015 review
- Inflammation is “a common pathway of stress-related diseases,” according to a 2017 review
If yogurt’s really not your thing, you’ll be happy to learn that you can get these benefits from any fermented food that contains Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria. These include:
- Gochujang, or spicy fermented bean paste
- Miso, or not-so-spicy fermented bean paste
#5: Antioxidant-rich foods like berries
Berries are a fabulous source of antioxidants, which help keep free radicals in check.
Everyone’s body contains free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can cause damage (called oxidative stress) when there are too many of them. Excess free radicals are often a consequence of stress. And the antioxidants found in berries help keep them under control and reduce oxidative stress.
The best part is, berries are SUPER simple to enjoy daily. You can eat them fresh over yogurt or granola, or just pop them like candy. After all, they taste like it—and your stress levels may thank you!
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