Stress is an inevitable part of life and managing stress can be a stress inducing process on its own. Chronic stress can lead to serious physical and emotional health issues and increase your risk of conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, and depression. The Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences published a review which stated that stress can increase the body’s need for vitamins and nutrients like Vitamin C and B, selenium, and magnesium.
The common denominator to foods that help manage stress are their ability to help lower the body’s cortisol level, a hormone which is released when the body is under stress. Some of the functions that are regulated by cortisol include:
- Sleep cycle regulation
- Inflammation reduction
- Raising blood sugar
- Managing the body’s use of carbs, fats, and proteins
- Blood pressure control
While a necessary hormone in the short-term, cortisol can be damaging in the long term and create stress on the body which leads to inflammation and increased blood pressure.
Matcha is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid that has large stress-relieving properties. It is the best source of this amino acid in comparison to other green teas.
A fermented dish typically made with napa cabbage and daikon, kimchi is high in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and beneficial probiotic bacteria that help promote gut health. Other fermented or probiotic rich foods like Greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut also provide these benefits.
Heart, liver, and kidney meat from animals such as cows and chickens are extremely high in B vitamins, specifically B12, B6, riboflavin, and folate which are all necessities for stress control. B vitamins assist in the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which help regulate mood. Fortified cereals and nutritional yeast are also high in vitamin B.
Fatty fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. These vitamins have been shown to reduce stress and improve mood as well as being optimal for improving brain health and mood regulation.
Chickpeas are packed with vitamins and minerals known to help reduce stress including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper. They are also rich in L-tryptophan. Research has shown that those who consume chickpeas regularly or follow the Mediterranean diet experience better mood and less stress than those who follow a Western diet rich in processed foods.
Magnesium Rich Foods
Magnesium helps relax the body and is a top choice for many nutritionists when selecting foods to help manage stress. Magnesium is also important for regulating heart rhythm and blood pressure, strong bones, and decreasing the risk of chronic diseases. Pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate (at least 90% cacao), artichokes, broccoli, avocado, and spinach are some examples of foods high in magnesium.
Most importantly, avoid consuming anything regularly that can cause cortisol levels to spike and don’t rely on food to de-stress. Caffeine, alcohol, foods high in sugar, simple carbs, and sodas are known to raise cortisol levels.