8 Foods to Help You Stress Less

story bMary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD of Milk & Honey Nutrition

Stress. We all fall victim at some point. Whether you’re overwhelmed from saying “yes” to too many things, or just experiencing some intense changes in your life… the way we feel and react to situations can get pretty sticky.

Sure, we’ve all heard about this idea that “good stress” exists and helps motivate and spur us to action. But, while this is definitely true, the stress we are usually referring to when we talk about being “stressed out” isn’t the good kind. It’s the kind that can lead you to forget things, feel anxious, yell at your kids, be short-tempered with your spouse, and a whole host of other negative behaviors.

As a stay-at-home mom, running my own business can definitely stress me out! There are days when I catch myself reacting to situations in ways that I’m not very proud of.

I try to always take a step back and ask myself, “Did that situation really warrant that reaction?” Usually, the answer is “no.” In fact, most often, I have to look at myself as the cause… especially when it comes to my kids. Why did I react that way? Sure, maybe they disobeyed, or did something they weren’t supposed to… but if I hadn’t already been on edge from being “stressed out,” I likely would have reacted a different way. Was I hungry? Tired? Anxious? Any of these could be true.

In fact, did you know the food you eat can affect how stressed you do or don’t feel? Yep. Research has shown that the quality of food we eat, and the specific foods we choose, are directly related to how anxious or stressed out we feel. And they can even help us deal with big life changes or events in a healthier way.
Let’s take a look at 8 foods that can help you stress less:

1. Avocados

Avocados are loaded with mono-unsaturated fats… those good for you anti-inflammatory fats. They’re great for promoting heart health, and fat takes longer for our bodies to digest keeping you full and satisfied. Avocados are also a great source of folate, b-vitamins, beta-carotene, and vitamin E. They’re loaded with antioxidants and can help protect our bodies against the oxidative damage that stress hormones can potentially cause.

2. Berries

Berries (think blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc.) are loaded with anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant, and Vitamin C. When we get stressed, our immune systems are put to the test, and sometimes we find ourselves more likely to get sick when experiencing stressful times or events. So, it’s important to make sure we’re eating vitamin C-rich foods that help keep our immune systems strong so we can stay focused and healthy.

3. Pistachios and peanuts

Sometimes, when we’re stressed it helps to focus our brains and our hands on a simple task… like shelling pistachios or peanuts. It’s a conscious activity that requires focus and can calm nerves. The anti-inflammatory fats and phytonutrients found in pistachios, peanuts, and other nuts may also help promote cardiovascular health.

4. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is everyone’s favorite stress-busting food! Because, I mean, CHOCOLATE. But did you know it’s more than just an emotional stress relief? Research has shown that the antioxidants found in cocoa may reduce stress hormone levels in our bodies, and help lower blood pressure levels. It’s also interesting to note that chocolate is one of the most powerful aphrodisiacs and help create a sense of excitement similar to being in love. And being in love just makes us happier!

5. Oatmeal

Carbs. Everyone’s second favorite stress reliever, behind chocolate. When we eat carbohydrates, our brains produce more serotonin, which is associated with less feelings of sadness and depression. Complex carbohydrates, like oatmeal, also help keep blood sugar levels stable (via fiber!) which can help prevent energy crashes and keep us alert and energized.

6. Spinach

Spinach, along with many other fruits and vegetables, is a great source of folate. Folate consumption is associated with higher levels of dopamine in our brains, which helps us stay calm and less agitated. Some studies have also found that people who eat more fruits and vegetables, like spinach, are also happier, less stressed, and more productive.

7. Salmon

Salmon is loaded with anti-inflammatory fats, just like avocados. Not only does a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, the kind found in salmon and tuna, help heart health, but it also is associated with less anxiety. It’s also a great quality protein source and will keep you satisfied for many hours. Don’t be afraid to have a larger portion either (5-6oz.). The more satisfied you are, the less tired and more energized you’ll feel.

8. Milk with Whole Food Nutrition

Whether you drink regular whole milk, a Sneakz Organic Milkshake (which also offers a ½ serving of those veggies we talked about above), or a plant-based milk, when the nutrients include vitamin-D, you’re already one step ahead. Research has shown that adequate vitamin D levels are associated with less feelings of panic and distress. So, you could grab a Sneakz organic milkshake, and take a walk outside to help de-stress!
Here’s some great recipes to help you incorporate these foods and feel less stressed throughout the day!

Orange Dark Chocolate Oatmeal
Mediterranean Cauliflower Rice Bowls with Norwegian Salmon
No-Cook Cinnamon Berry Breakfast Pudding
Avocado Frozen Hot Chocolate