In modern society, stress and anxiety have become common factors in our everyday lives. And while there is such a thing as good stress, more often than not, stress tends to stem from negative anxiety. Unfortunately, prolonged negative stress can wreak havoc on the body, and while the body is equipped to naturally adapt and handle the effects of stress to an extent, certain habits can hurt, or help, the process.
Nutrition plays a vital role in the body’s ability to manage and alleviate stress. So while sugary drinks and preservative-pumped snacks might hinder that natural response, more nutritional picks like vegetables can help by doing the opposite. The next time you’re feeling overworked or anxious, reach for one of these foods to help your body counter stress symptoms, naturally.
1. Leafy Greens
Heather Mangieri, RDN, advises consuming foods high in folate, which stimulates mood-boosting chemicals in the brain.
“Green leafy vegetables, like spinach, contain folate, which produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, helping you keep calm,” Mangieri told Health.
Mangieri also suggests noshing on complex carbohydrates to ease an anxious mind.
“Stress can cause your blood sugar to rise,” she explained, “so a complex carb like oatmeal won’t contribute to your already potential spike in blood glucose.”
The same article reports that, according to research at MIT, once the body ingests complex carbs, the brain naturally produces serotonin, the same chemical found in anti-depressants.
Natural health expert, Dr. Joseph Mercola suggests wild-caught salmon for reducing anxiety.
According to his website, a study in Brain Behavior and Immunity attributed the omega-3 fats found in fish to decreasing anxiety levels in a research group of medical students. The article also claims the nutrient is just as effective as anti-depressants.
As an alternative treatment to stress and anxiety, Mercola prescribes good ‘ol sunshine.
He says that low levels of vitamin D are associated with panic disorders, and there have been various studies to suggest that research participants with low levels of the vitamin were more likely to suffer from depression.
The optimum way to get some vitamin D? Soak up the sun, while being mindful of skin exposure. But when that’s not an option, you can always take advantage of vitamin D supplements to up your daily dose with or without soaking up some rays.
5. Dark Chocolate
Health‘s contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, RD, says eating chocolate can keep you calm.
“Research has shown that [chocolate] can reduce your stress hormones, including cortisol,” she said in an article. “Also, the antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation.”
Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, the Medical Director and Founder of the Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine, suggests magnesium supplements for combatting stress, more particularly for insomnia. Magnesium works to relax the body, she said in an article on Dr. Oz The Good Life.
Magnesium is also found in nuts and seeds, especially flax, pumpkin, and sunflower seeds, and can help fight fatigue and irritability.
7. Vitamin B6
Bhatia also pointed out that certain B-vitamins play a vital role in relieving stress symptoms, especially headaches.
She said our body’s reserve of B-vitamins (especially B6, or pyridoxine) tends to plummet when we’re stressed, resulting in headaches.