Life can be stressful, but your diet can play a huge part in keeping your mood up. Maintaining a healthy diet helps us feel better both in body and in mind but some superfoods go even further. Researchers have looked into certain foods that may boost the happy chemicals in your brain while inhibiting hormones that cause stress, anxiety, and depression. From the dopamine-producing folate in leafy greens to the panic-relieving vitamin D in milk, these superfoods are great for helping keep some of your stress at bay.
Pistachios May Lower Your Heart Rate
Mangieri also recommends pistachios as a potential stress-relieving remedy. That’s because they reduce blood pressure and heart rate and contain phytonutrients that support a healthy cardiovascular system.
Since stress can have a negative impact on your heart, getting all the support you can get to keep your cardiovascular system healthy and calm is especially important. We recommend getting unshelled pistachios because peeling them can be therapeutic and an excellent distraction from racing thoughts and concerns.
Turkey May Make You Calm, Not Sleepy
Many know turkey as the meat that makes you sleepy, but this may actually be due to its calming effects. Dietitian Heather Mangieri says that the amino acid tryptophan that some claim causes tiredness is linked to serotonin production.
A 2006 study by the Journal of Psychiatry Neuroscience found that participants who took tryptophan were deemed more agreeable by their partners than when they were not taking it. So perhaps you are more relaxed after a turkey dinner and are just tired because it’s a lot to digest!
Salmon May Help Counteract Stress Hormones
Salmon and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids may be able to balance out overwhelming emotions. Dietitian Lisa Cimperman notes that the anti-inflammatory properties found in these foods “may help to counteract the negative effect of stress hormones.”
An Oregon State University study backed up these claims. Participants who took omega-3 supplements had 20% less anxiety than those who took a placebo! Whether you love omega-3 foods or would rather take it as a supplement, it’s worth trying out if you’re feeling stressed.
Leafy Greens Can Boost Your Dopamine
It’s no surprise that green, leafy vegetables are good for you. After all, they do contain a plethora of vitamins and minerals, plus fiber and protein. What you may not know is that the folate in them helps to produce dopamine.
That’s why dietitian Heather Mangieri recommends eating leafy vegetables to help keep calm. A study by the Journal of Affective Disorders found that participants who consumed the most folate were at a lower risk of experiencing symptoms of depression.
Yogurt Encourages Gut And Brain Health
Have you ever noticed that when you’re feeling upset, your stomach becomes all out of sorts? According to researchers, that’s because of the chemicals that pass between the brain and the gut.
Due to this delicate relationship, a healthy gut may help to keep your mood elevated. That’s why probiotics in foods like yogurt may indirectly make you feel less stressed. A UCLA study even found that women who consumed probiotic-rich yogurt had less brain activity in areas related to stress.
Blueberries Help Your Immune System Fight Stress
You may have noticed that the more stressed you are, the more susceptible you become to feeling under the weather. That’s because stress elicits a response from the immune system, so it’s important to keep your immunity up when the going gets tough.
Dietitian Cynthis Sass notes that blueberries are especially helpful in that they contain phytonutrients and antioxidants that can boost your white blood cells. These cells can help counteract the effects of stress by keeping your immune system at its best.
Cashews May Help Reduce Anxiety
Cashews are another food rich in omega-3s, so they have a similar positive impact on stress as salmon. However, these nuts have an extra boost of mood-stabilizing nutrients because they are also high in zinc.
Nutrition and Metabolic Insights reports that study participants saw a 31% decrease in anxiety when they took zinc supplements for eight weeks. Since the mineral impacts a nerve chemical related to mood, it may be worth upping your zinc intake during times of stress.
Complex Carbs Boost Serotonin, Not Blood Sugar
When you think of comfort food, you probably imagine dishes that are packed with carbohydrates. While not all carbs are created equal, complex carbs like sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and brown rice may have a positive impact on your mood.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that carbohydrates can assist with serotonin production. Mangieri warns that sugary carbs can spike blood sugar, which may counteract the positive effects on stress. That’s why she recommends complex carbs as they have a lower glycemic index.
Oranges May Boost Immunity While Lowering Cortisol
When it comes to a stress-fighting fruit, oranges are near the top of dietitian Sass’s list. She notes that the vitamin C in the citrus fruit not only boosts immunity but also helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Lowered cortisol may also help you stay lean because the hormone tends to increase appetite and weight gain, particularly around the midsection. Plus, the more relaxed you feel, the less likely you are to stress-eat.
Milk May Reduce Risk Of Panic And Depression
Many milk brands not only advertise the drink’s natural calcium, but also the high vitamin D content in fortified variations. Researchers have found that the sun-derived vitamin may be related to elevated mood, giving a deeper meaning to the phrase “fun in the sun.”
The UCL Institute of Child Health in London conducted a study of nearly 6,000 participants over 50 years! They found that those will low vitamin D levels were more at risk of developing panic disorders.
Seeds May Help Alleviate Depression
Sass recommends seeds as a way to counteract symptoms of depression, fatigue, and irritability, all of which are commonly associated with PMS! That’s because they are generally high in magnesium, a mineral linked to mood regulation.
Another reason for women to consider boosting their magnesium intake around that time of the month is that it may also help reduce cramps and water retention. Whether your hormones are out of whack or you’re just going through a stressful time, seeds and other magnesium-rich foods are your friend.
Eggs May Help You Regulate Your Mood
Dietitian Keri Gans notes that eggs contain a neuro transmitting chemical that can positively impact your brain’s ability to regulate mood. When you’re in control of your emotions, you’re less likely to suffer during stressful times.
Plus, eggs are high in vitamin D, another nutrient that can help stabilize your mood. It can also boost immunity and reduce inflammation, giving your body the defenses it needs to ward off the unwanted effects of being too stressed.
Beets Are Also High In Stress-Reducing Folate
As with leafy green vegetables, beets are also high in folate. One cup provides 30% of your daily intake of the stress-fighting mineral. Since some medications lower your folate supply, making sure you get enough can be a vital part of maintaining a balanced mood.
Sass states, “Because of its link with the nervous system, too little folate has been known to trigger mental fatigue, forgetfulness, confusion, and insomnia.” If you’re feeling out of sorts and aren’t sure why, folate could be the solution!
Tumeric May Boost Feel-Good Hormones
Tumeric is an excellent spice to add to just about any dish because it not only will give your dish a boost of appetizing color, but it also is packed with anti-inflammatories. One of these is curcumin, a compound that is linked to feel-good hormone production.
Dietitian Gans explains that two of the hormones curcumin impacts are serotonin and dopamine, both of which can elevate your mood. So if you’re feeling down, sprinkle a little tumeric on your meals.
Dark Chocolate May Reduce Stress Hormones
For many of us, we’ve known all along that chocolate was the anecdote to stress. Now even science can back up those claims! According to Sass, a small amount of dark chocolate may reduce the stress-causing hormone cortosol.
Plus, the cocoa bean that makes chocolate contains antioxidants. Researchers have found that these antioxidants help to release the tension in blood vessels, which then improves blood pressure and circulation. At last, you have a legitimate reason to grab a little dark chocolate from the grocery store.
Seaweed May Help Prevent Depression
Though you don’t want to take a bite out of seaweed straight from the ocean, there are plenty of prepared seaweed snacks that are delicious, low-calorie, and great for depression. That’s because it’s loaded with iodine.
Just four ounces of seaweed salad contains almost 3 times your daily intake of iodine, a compound that has been linked to a reduced risk of depression and fatigue. Sass recommends getting in your daily fill to ensure that your symptoms aren’t a result of low iodine levels.
Green Tea May Reduce Stress
If you’re prone to anxiety and stress, getting all jittery on coffee may not be the best idea. A more relaxing alternative is green tea, which researchers have found may have stress-relieving properties.
A study conducted in Japan included more than 40,000 participants who drank varying amounts of green tea each day. Those who drank five cups of it every day experienced a fifth of the stress compared to those who drank less than one cup per day.
Oysters May Decrease The Body’s Response To Stress
Oysters are packed with stress-fighting zinc. Just six raw oysters contain four-times your daily value of the mineral, making them perfect for someone who may be suffering from adverse effects of being zinc-deficient.
Gans notes that as an antioxidant, zinc boosts your immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties, both of which can help lower the body’s response to stress and anxiety. Since oysters are naturally high in zinc, keeping them a regular part of your diet would ensure you’re getting the suggested amount.
Chamomile Promotes Relaxation
Is there anything more relaxing then melting into your couch with a warm cup of tea cradled between both hands? While green tea can give you a boost in your step, chamomile does the opposite, promoting relaxation and a sense of calm.
Sass notes that chamomile has been linked to improved sleep, which can be a vital defense during stressful times. Quality sleep helps keep the immune system at its best and prevent irritability related to fatigue.
Avocado Can Ward Off Irritability
Have you ever heard of the term hangry? It describes a genuine phenomenon wherein you feel irritable simply because your body needs sustenance. Avocados are packed with nutrition, including stress-fighting omega-3s.
This makes them the perfect snack or meal add-on to keep you satisfied and ready to take on any challenges. A Loma Linda University study found that participants who added half an avocado to their lunch were 40% more full over the proceeding three hours!