Staying balanced through the holidays can be challenging due to the high stress nature of the season. However, to keep you feeling calm and balanced, include some of the holiday’s best stress-relieving foods as part of your regular meals.
Which foods are the best for relieving stress? Those that contain high amounts of B-complex vitamins, vitamins C and E, and those that contain minerals like manganese, selenium and zinc. The food items rich in these substances should be included regularly in your meals.
Food plays a very important role in stress relief. If you feed yourself high energy and nutritious foods, potentially stressful situations won’t bother you because you have the energy and stamina to cope.
On the other hand if you eat processed foods and those low in the stress-busting nutrients, your energy levels will be depleted and potentially stressful situations will become stressful.
Here’s my list of the some of the most beneficial foods for relieving stress. Many of these are part of our traditional American holiday fare.
Turkey contains an amino acid called L-tryptophan. This amino acid triggers the release of serotonin, which is a feel-good brain chemical. This is the reason why many people who eat turkey feel relaxed, or even tired, after eating it. L-Tryptophan has a documented calming effect.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes can be particularly stress-reducing because they can satisfy the urge you get for carbohydrates and sweets when you are under a great deal of stress. They are packed full of beta-carotene and other vitamins, and the fiber helps your body to process the carbohydrates in a slow and steady manner.
Peppermint helps to relieve stress because it contains manganese, iron, magnesium, calcium, folate, potassium and copper. It also contains some omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and vitamin A. You can make peppermint tea, add fresh peppermint leaves into smoothies and salads, and also put a few leaves in your cup of hot cocoa. Also, any fruit salad will be enhanced by adding some fresh peppermint leaves to it.
4. Broccoli, Asparagus and Green Vegetables
Yet another food that is chock-full of stress-relieving B vitamins, broccoli has the added benefit of containing folic acid, which is also part of the B vitamin family. Folic acid helps relieve stress, anxiety, panic, and even depression. Stalks of asparagus are tender and are also a good source of the natural mood-lightener, folic acid. Broccoli, asparagus, kale and other dark green vegetables are powerhouses of vitamins that help replenish our bodies in times of stress.
A German study in Psychopharmacology found that vitamin C helps reduce stress and return blood pressure and cortisol to normal levels after a stressful situation. Vitamin C is also well-known for boosting your immune system.
6. Dried Apricots
Apricots are rich in magnesium, which is a stress-buster and a natural muscle relaxant as well.
7. Almonds, Pistachios & Walnuts
Almonds are great stress relievers: they’re packed with vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc. B vitamins and magnesium are involved in the production of serotonin, which helps regulate mood and relieve stress. Zinc has also been shown to fight some of the negative effects of stress,
while vitamin E is an antioxidant that destroys the free radicals related to stress. Walnuts and pistachios help lower blood pressure.
These little blue miracle workers are jam-packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, which are potent stress busters. As an added bonus, they’re low in calories, so they won’t make you gain weight.
Blueberries are also a good source of fiber, which can help relieve the cramps and constipation that can occur in times of stress. Mix them into yogurt or smoothies or eat them on their own as a snack or dessert.
Bananas are high in potassium, which helps normalize the heartbeat and regulate the body’s water balance. During periods of high stress, our body’s potassium levels tend to be rapidly depleted: eating bananas is a healthy way to rebalance them without using drugs. Bananas also
contain tryptophan, the same amino acid contained in turkey, that is converted to serotonin, leading to improved mood and calmness.
10. AvocadosThe monounsaturated fats and potassium in avocados help lower blood pressure. One of the best ways to lower blood pressure is to consume enough potassium (avocados have more than bananas).
11. Salmon and other Fish
Most types of fish are replete with all-important B vitamins, particularly the renowned stress fighters B6 and B12. In fact, B12 is one of the most important vitamins involved in the synthesis of the “happy” brain chemical serotonin; a vitamin B12 deficiency can even lead to depression.
Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids protect against heart disease. A study from Diabetes & Metabolism found that omega-3s keep the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from peaking.
12. Green Tea
Green tea is rich in an amino acid known as gamma-ethylamino-L-glutamic acid, commonly known as L-theanine. One of the unique properties of L-theanine is its ability to induce relaxation and stress relief. Because it has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, it readily gains access to the central nervous system. Once there, it has the ability to alter the levels of key neurotransmitters associated with mood such as serotonin, GABA, and dopamine. L-theanine also been shown to directly promote production of alpha waves, the “gentle” brain waves associated with relaxation and stress reduction. For example, when you enter a meditative or state of extreme relaxation, your brain produces mainly alpha waves. L-theanine has also been shown to cause lowering of the blood pressure.
What about the activating effects of the caffeine in green tea? It appears that the soothing effects of L-theanine offset many of the activating properties of the caffeine in the tea, making green tea helpful for stress relief despite the presence of variable amounts of caffeine.
Although it may seem smart to use decaffeinated green tea if you’re using green tea for stress relief, this isn’t necessarily the healthiest option. Although decaffeination doesn’t remove the theanine, it does remove many of the healthy catechins that make green tea so beneficial. If you want to decaffeinate green tea, do it naturally at home.
To do this, pour hot water over the green tea leaves and allow it to remain for thirty seconds. Discard the water and use fresh, hot water to steep the leaves as usual. You’ll have removed eighty percent of the caffeine.
The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts originally printed this article. For more about the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts click here.