Stressed Out? The 12 Foods You Should Be Eating

Everyone gets stressed out now and again and we all have our go-to remedies (i.e candy, potato chips and even alcohol), but many Americans turn to the saltiest and fattiest foods to help calm them down – what we call “comfort foods”. Below, we will be listing real comfort foods that can help you relieve stress.

Let’s start out by saying, however, that foods that will actually lower your stress level are much different than the traditionally-called comfort foods. There will not be any fast food or mac n’ cheese on this list!

Stressful events or just the daily hassles of life cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol causes food cravings, and (in women in particular) those cravings tend to be strongest for carbohydrates and sweet foods. Men typically crave protein and fat aka: burgers, fries, and pepperoni pizza. It should be noted that the more we eat the foods we crave, the worse it is on our bodies. Not only will gorging on junk food release dopamine, but our stress levels will rise even higher (most likely due to “guilt”) and cause the cycle to begin all over again!

Below are meals and snacks that will truly soothe you – thanks to the nutrients they provide and the natural source of energy they give you. They’ll get you through the day feeling focused and balanced so you have the ability to conquer anything- and without it affecting your waistline!

Hot Water with Lemon

stress relief foods

Hot lemon water has been such a trend lately. A lot of people like to have a glass right when they wake up because of how it flushes out their body and detoxifies their organs – a perfect way to begin your long day of work. This will give you the chance to start your day with a clear mind and calm feeling. Not only is the vitamin C from the lemon great for your insides but amazing for your skin as well. Lemon water also acts as a weight loss remedy. These are all good things when you are trying to lower your stress level!

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

stress relief foods

Switch up your boring salad or sandwich lunch for fun lettuce wraps with lean meat, veggies and a balsamic glaze or dressing. The antioxidants from the green lettuce will leave you way more alert than any type of bread will, while the lean chicken (or whatever meat you decide on) will give you the protein you need to stay focused and calm. If you are a meat lover, go for grass-fed when you can. Grass-fed beef is not only better for the planet, it’s also better for us humans! It has more antioxidants, vitamins C, and vitamin E than grain-fed beef. Grass-fed beef also ensures us that there are no added hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs.

Cashews

stress relief food

Cashews – along with many other types of nuts such as almonds and pistachios – are a really good source of zinc. Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc themselves, it’s important to get some every day through our diet. Snack on these throughout the work day, make your own homemade trail mix with some dark chocolate or throw a handful into your morning smoothie!

Oysters

stress relief food

They are more than just an aphrodisiac! Oysters also provide us with a crazy amount of zinc. Six oysters, which is what you’d typically be served in a restaurant, have more than half the recommended daily amount of zinc! Guess you should make dinner plans for Saturday night now, right?

Green or Chamomile Tea

Cup of tea with lemon slice, mint leaves and chamomile flower

These should come as no surprise to tea enthusiasts. Although green tea typically has caffeine, you can buy decaf versions which are more optimal for stress relief. In addition, chamomile tea is probably the most recommended bedtime soother by doctors and other health professionals because of its ability to calm nerves. Green tea on the other hand, helps with improving brain functioning and physical activity as well as lowers risk for infections and certain cancers! These two teas are amazing for you whether you are stressed out or not!

Avocado Toast

stress relief food

A perfect morning snack with your hot lemon water! Avocados are not only the trendiest food right now, but the healthy omega-3 fatty acids in them are essential for energy boosting, problem solving and memory skills. Choose whole grain bread whenever you can. The B vitamins help with better brain functioning.

Kale (or any green) Smoothie

stress relief food

All dark leafy greens are great sources of antioxidants and fiber which is perfect for a much-needed energy boost. This will, in turn, help increase productivity—and decrease stress/anxiety! Unlike processed or packaged food, these fresh veggies produce a relaxing effect on the body, and help to lower stress both mentally and physically. Although you can eat these greens with basically any meal, a smoothie is much more fun and easier for on-the-go purposes.

Dark Chocolate

stress relief food

Besides the heart healthy contents in dark chocolate – which push it near the very top of most good food lists – it has an undeniable link to mood as well. Of course, we’ve all been there: Craving a piece of chocolate whether its been a bad day, or not. But research shows that chocolate actually makes you feel better. Dark chocolate is known to lower blood pressure, which brings a sense of calmness. It even contains more antioxidants than some fruit juices. (Stressed out) Chocolate lovers rejoice!

Fatty Fish

stress relief food

Fatty fish, such as salmon or mackerel, contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to benefit the heart and help protect it from stress-related diseases, such as heart disease, asthma and anxiety. They also promote brain health! For dinner, opting for brown rice rather than white rice adds a complex carb to your meal, meaning your serotonin levels (the hormone responsible for keeping you calm) will go up.

Milk

stress relief foods

According to the Food Network, you can “have a glass to get more B vitamins, protein, vitamin D and bone-building calcium to relieve tense muscles.” After a work out, its a really good idea to have some milk, especially chocolate, to relieve tension and  stress from your muscles as well as replace some of the sugars that were lost during the workout. This is why you will often catch many bodybuilders enjoying a delicious cup of chocolate milk post-workout.

Garlic

stress relief foods

Like many plants, garlic is jam-packed with antioxidants. These chemicals neutralize free radicals (particles that damage our cells, cause diseases, and encourage aging) and may reduce some of the damage the free radicals cause over time. Garlic has also been linked to lowering risk of heart disease, cancer, and even the common cold! Because stress weakens our immune system, we need foods like garlic, which can toughen it back up.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal with blueberries

Like brown rice, oatmeal provides the same type of complex carbohydrate to our diet. Oatmeal causes our brains to produce serotonin, otherwise known as the feel good chemical. Beta-glucan which is also found in oatmeal, is a type of fiber that has been shown to make us feel fuller for longer, which means we wont be overeating which can easily cause stress.

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Which foods keep your stress level down?

Images via iStock

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