Published January 24, 2013
The negative effects stress has on your body are well-documented, and I’m sure you have read about different ways to reduce stress in your life.
But what happens when exercise, vacations, relaxation techniques or taking breaks just aren’t enough? Certain foods can actually help you deal with stress and even combat the negative consequences it has on your body.
To start the day off stress-free, try a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. It’s rich in soluble fiber – which helps keep you feel fuller, longer – vitamin B and magnesium.
Studies have shown a strong link between magnesium and mental health: Deficiency in this nutrient can cause irritability, depression and anxiety. And carbohydrates, like oatmeal, can help produce serotonin, which helps keep you calm and fight anxiety.
Fish, like salmon (a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins) or tuna (high in vitamins B6 and B12) are great low-fat sources of the stress-fighting B vitamins. Salmon can also help boost serotonin levels.
When you need a snack, reach for almonds. Sometimes, just eating something crunchy can help you de-stress. Nutritionally, almonds are loaded with vitamins B12 and E, magnesium and zinc. Vitamin E can help fight damage-causing free radicals, especially those that cause heart disease.
Walnuts are also a great snack, as they have been shown to help lower blood pressure. This can be critical for those with high stress, adrenaline-fueled days.
Sunflower seeds are a great source of magnesium and folate, which helps produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure.
If you’re craving something sweet, try dark chocolate. It’s high in flavonoids, which help you relax, and phenethylamine, which helps enhance your mood. Studies have also shown that eating small amounts of dark chocolate each day can help reduce levels of cortisol, one of the main stress hormones produced in the body.
Blueberries are also a great high-fiber, low-calorie option to satisfy your sweet tooth. They are loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C, both of which help counteract the effects of stress on your body.
In addition to eating these foods, avoiding things like smoking, alcohol and recreational drugs can help you de-stress.
If you still experience high levels of stress, after trying the natural route, you should talk to your doctor about your situation.
Dr. David B. Samadi is the Vice Chairman of the Department of Urology and Chief of Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of urological disease, with a focus on robotic prostate cancer treatments. To learn more please visit his websites RoboticOncology.com and SMART-surgery.com. Find Dr. Samadi on Facebook.