What Are Stress Relieving Foods?
Stress can get the best of any of us from time to time, impacting our mental health in a variety of ways. While there is often no single perfect solution for tackling stress, it’s completely natural to want to alleviate these symptoms as much as possible. And while your first port of call should typically be a consultation with a medical professional, there are steps you can take at home to help relieve excessive stress in your daily life.
One of the simplest ways to reduce stress is a change in diet. Studies have shown that there is a wide spectrum of food that can serve to boost your mood – and the vast majority are easily obtainable in supermarkets across Ireland. Let’s take a look at 10 of the best foods for relieving stress:
1 – Shellfish
Shellfish, including clams, mussels, prawns, and oysters, are high in amino acids like taurine, which are needed to produce important neurotransmitters such as dopamine, essential for regulating stress response. In fact, studies indicate that taurine may even have antidepressant effects.
Shellfish also contain a wide array of essential mood-boosting micronutrients like vitamin B12, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium. This connection to an improved mood is particularly pronounced in Zinc, according to a recent study in Japan.
2 – Nuts & Seeds
Nuts & seeds can also offer a variety of benefits if consumed regularly. Brazil nuts, for example, are high in selenium which reduces inflammation, which is often at heightened levels when someone suffers from anxiety.
Sunflower and pumpkin seeds also pack a high dose of vitamin E and should be included in any diet where an improved mood is the end result.
3 – Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate has been suspected of improving mental well-being for many years now, though it is only in the past 10-15 years that science has been able to assert these claims more concretely.
You should ideally be aiming at a cocoa percentage of 70% or higher and limiting yourself to no more than 3g per day to limit the fats and sugars that come with this food.
4 – Yogurt
Yogurt contains healthful bacteria, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria. These bacteria are eubacteria (good bacteria), sometimes also known as probiotics. Studies have shown that these bacteria have positive effects on brain health.
According to another clinical review, yogurt and other dairy products may be responsible for producing an anti-inflammatory effect. Some research suggests that chronic inflammation may be partly responsible for anxiety, as well as depression and stress.
5 – Blueberries
Blueberries are associated with a number of health benefits, including improved mood.
These berries have a high concentration of flavonoids that have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. Even recent studies have shown that eating foods rich in flavonoids like blueberries may help alleviate depression and boost your mood.
Blueberries are available in supermarkets wherever fruit is sold, and their benefits will be available when consumed fresh or frozen. Blueberry season is typically in the late summer.
6 – Chickpeas
Chickpeas are also full of stress-reducing micronutrients, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper – all of which help improve your mood.
Research has found that diets rich in plant proteins like chickpeas can help boost overall brain health and improve cognition.
In an additional study, participants who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in plant foods like peas and beans experienced better mood and less stress than those who followed a typical Western diet rich in processed foods.
7 – Broccoli
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are often well-known for their health benefits. A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables may lower your risk of heart disease and depression.
Cruciferous vegetables are some of the most concentrated food sources of certain micronutrients (including magnesium, and vitamin C) that have been proven to combat depressive symptoms.
Broccoli specifically is also rich in sulforaphane, a sulphur compound that has neuroprotective properties and may offer calming effects.
8 – Eggs
Eggs, of all the foods listed here, have a particularly impressive nutrient profile. Whole eggs are packed with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids needed for healthy stress management.
Whole eggs are particularly rich in choline, a nutrient found in large amounts in only select foods. Choline has been shown in studies in rats to play an important role in brain health and may protect against stress.
Eggs are of course available in all Irish supermarkets and also can be sourced locally from chicken farmers.
9 – Avocado
Avocado is touted as a superfruit for a variety of reasons, one of which is its ability to reduce stress levels.
In a 2014 study, researchers had participants add half an avocado to their lunches, reducing their desire to eat more by 40% for the three hours following the midday meal.
That feeling of satiation reduces the feeling of unrest or anxiety that accompanies low blood sugar and an empty stomach.
10 – Turmeric
Turmeric is a spice commonly used in India and South East Asian cooking that contains a compound called curcumin. A 2015 study found that curcumin reduced anxiety in obese adults, while another study found that an increase of dietary curcumin also increased DHA and subsequently reduced anxiety.
Additionally, turmeric is very easy to add to meals. It has minimal flavour so it can be disguised in nearly any dish without compromising the taste, though it will change to the colour yellow.
There are a wide variety of foods that are proven in lab settings to reduce stress and/or symptoms of anxiety. Far from being exotic, all of these foods can be found in the Irish supermarket that you already do your big shop in. Try incorporating some of these easy-to-find foods into your diet to naturally promote stress relief.