Calm Down With These Stress-Relieving Foods

Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
By Deborah Dunham
Donuts, cookies, chips — there’s no denying that certain high-fat and high-sugar foods can become our go-to ways to self-medicate when we're stressed. Those same foods, however, can send our feel-good hormones on a roller-coaster ride and leave us feeling sluggish, depressed, and worse than ever. So, rather than reaching for junk food the next time you’re feeling frazzled, do your mind and body a favor by going for complex carbs, healthy fats, or lean proteins.
These 10 options have all of the nutrients you need to fend off mental and physical stress and get back into a state of bliss.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
The complex carbs in oatmeal boost serotonin levels and help create a calming effect on the brain, according to Keri Glassman, R.D., author of Slim, Calm, Sexy Diet: 365 Proven Food Strategies for Mind/Body Bliss. “This comfort food...has antioxidant properties [that help] prevent stress," she says.
Sure, oranges are chock-full of immunity-boosting vitamin C, but did you know that same nutrient can also help our bodies calm down? “When we are stressed, our body releases more free radicals,” explains Glassman. “Vitamin C in oranges helps our bodies keep those free radicals from building up and causing more stress.”
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Time to get crunching! Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that can reduce blood pressure, prevent surges in stress hormones, and guard against mood swings.
Whether your favorites are blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries, all of these little fruits are big on antioxidants that have stress-relieving properties. Berries are also an excellent source of vitamin C, which can keep our cortisol levels in check.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Dark Chocolate
“Chocolate has an undeniable link to mood,” says Glassman. Just be sure to stick with dark chocolate, which not only has healthy antioxidants, but can also lower blood pressure, making us feel calmer and more relaxed.
Chamomile Tea
The act of sipping any hot beverage can be very soothing. Chamomile tea in particular is a calming herbal drink that is known to be a sleep-inducer and mild tranquilizer — perfect for a pre-slumber ritual.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Cottage Cheese
Pick some low-fat cottage cheese, sprinkle it with flaxseeds, and top with fresh blueberries — and you’ve got yourself a mood-boosting snack. The carbs release a steady supply of energy and serotonin, while the berries work to control those nasty stress hormones.
Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
These green goddesses are rich in glutathione, a substance that prevents the absorption of fats that cause oxidative damage. Avocados are also a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin E, and the ever-important folate.
Depression has been linked to low levels of folic acid, notes Glassman. So, load up on those dark-green veggies. Asparagus, for instance, is high in folate, a mood-enhancing nutrient that may help ward off a blue mood.
Got milk? It’s high in antioxidants, vitamin B12, protein, and calcium, which can stave off free radicals brought on by stress. Plus, milk’s potassium helps relieve muscle tension and cramps. Bottoms up!

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