5 Foods that Reduce Stress

By Joe Martinez, RPh, PDE, CMS, Founder and CCO, HMS

Contributor, Emily Simmons

We all have stress in our lives. Some more and some less.

And frankly, many of us eat to cope.  The question is: can eating help or hinder?

Bottom line: it all depends on what you are eating. Like with all health conditions, when it comes to stress, food can serve as medicine, or as a another problem.

So, in honor of April being National Stress Awareness Month, let’s dig a little into what causes stress and discuss what foods will help take the edge off.

Stress is when our body goes into what is called our ‘fight or flight’ mode. When we are in this mode our body releases many hormones like adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine, which give us more energy but also inhibits our digestive process.

Long periods of this fight or flight mode can cause harm to our bodies. Prolonged stress results in higher levels of these hormones which can negatively contribute to other disease states like heart disease, high blood pressure, ulcers, diabetes, muscle pain, and miscarriages.

Although it may seem like there is no way to avoid stress, there are ways to manage it. An effective way may include lifestyle changes such as taking walks during the week, journaling, or even breathing exercises.  There are also foods that can reduce stress.

Here are my favorites:

      1) Water

Dehydration can cause many things, even mood swings. So, stay hydrated! Be cautious of drinking tap water as the added chlorine and other chemicals can be harmful to your body, so it’s always a great idea to have a water filter handy.

     2) Tryptophan

Tryptophan is a nutrient that helps our bodies make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that gives us that ‘feel good’ feeling, the one we all want! Tryptophan can be found in foods like turkey, chicken, bananas, oats and nuts.

     3) Chocolate –  Mainly dark chocolate

Dark chocolate works by improving blood flow to the brain. One study demonstrated that people who ate dark chocolate twice daily had lower levels of stress hormones and showed increased levels of serotonin. Learn more about dark chocolate in our dark chocolate blog. Click here to see the blog.

     4) Carbs

Carbs also increase the production of serotonin. That said, best to go for more of the whole grains rather than processed carbs. This will slow down the breakdown of carbs and give you steadier energy rather than just one quick burst.  People with diabetes should be aware that they may need to adjust their medications when changing their diets and especially carb intake.

    5) High-protein

Yogurt, fish, cheese, nuts, soy and eggs all contain high amounts of protein that will help stimulate production of chemicals in the brain. The two main chemicals that protein stimulates are dopamine and norepinephrine, which can contribute to your mental energy.

Extra consideration: Laughter remains as some of the best medicine around. As you relax and manage your stress, don’t forget to giggle and even outright laugh! Food and getting the proper nutrients will play a major role in how your body will cope with stress and always remember that lifestyle, including laughter, is just as important. So as you eat and laugh, throw some exercise into the routine for a well-rounded approach.

And while you are at it, relax with some delicious meals from Healthy Meals Supreme.  We’ll do the work. You just heat and eat!

* Always check with your doctor or healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.

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