Studies have shown that too much stress can be horrible for your entire system. How well you manage stress can mean the difference between living well in the later years and struggling. The trouble is many people reach for unhealthful things when stressed and compound their problems, rather than relieving them. Be sure to de-stress with exercise, art, writing, yoga, meditation, tai chi, a hobby, talking to a good friend, or just watching a hilarious program. There are lots of stress management techniques that are healthful.
One problem is people generally grab comfort foods laden with salt, sugar, and fat when stressed. But here are some healthy foods that can help you control stress. There are several ways foods can work to decrease stress. If you pick comfort foods that are healthy, say a bowl of warm chicken soup, you can increase serotonin, the happiness neurotransmitter in your brain. Other foods decrease adrenaline and cortisol in the body, the stress hormones, helping you that way. Then there are healthy foods that lower blood pressure or boost the immune system.
Complex carbohydrates boost serotonin. Eat whole grain breads, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, quinoa, bulgur, or even old-fashioned, steel cut oats as in oatmeal. Whole grains also help stabilize glucose levels. Oranges are full of vitamin-C, an antioxidant and powerful immune system booster. But did you know that same vitamin is a potent stress fighter too? Research has shown that oranges can help level out cortisol—the stress hormone. In one particular study, participants who took vitamin-C before a stressful event found that it helped their cortisol level and blood pressure levels return to normal more quickly than those that did not take the supplement.
Omega-3 fatty acids, in addition to being extremely heart healthy, are great stress busters. Consider adding fish to the menu twice a week. It should be fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel. For vegetarians, walnuts and flaxseed have omega-3s as do udon noodles. What you drink can help you recover from stress, and we’re not talking alcohol which can actually make things worse. Instead, try a cup of black tea. One study found that those who drank four cups daily for six weeks were calmer and had lower levels of stress overall, than those that did not. Keep your menu in mind and it will help keep your stress under control.