Reducing Stress with Food

Graphic of stress reducing foods

Stress, worry, anxiety. They’re all terrible in their own ways. Their cause is important, but what’s even more important is how we deal with them. Popular methods surround us everyday: yoga, jogging, meditation, acupuncture, supplements, medication, etc. Another popular reaction to these feelings, though not necessarily a healthy one, is to eat.

People find comfort in food. A bag of chips, crackers, beef jerky, ice cream, candy, french fries, we all turn to these less-than-healthy snacks because they offer an immediate respite from bad feelings. Seeking relief from stress and anxiety through eating is quite common. In most cases, though, these eating habits are based on sugary and fat-ladened food. These kinds of unhealthy foods only exacerbate long term feelings of stress and anxiety. 

The answer: keep the habit, substitute the food.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

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Reducing stress with food as never been easier thanks to omega-3 fatty acids. Fatty acids are big in the news these days. A number of studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce stress in the body. In fact, omega-3 fatty acids can actually reverse stress symptoms entirely by boosting serotonin production and lowering stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Nuts and seeds—such as flaxseeds, pistachios, walnuts, and almonds—are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. And remember, it’s not just nuts and seeds. Fish are another crucial source of omega-3 fatty acid. Tuna and salmon are both rich in fatty acids.  Omega-3 fatty acids may also grant protection against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome.

Complex Carbohydrates

When one is feeling stressed, the body yearns for carbohydrates. The reason is because we feel an almost immediate gratification from carbohydrates as they increase the production of serotonin in our brains. Serotonin plays a crucial role in depression, and this carbohydrate gratification could be the explanation behind obesity and depression going hand in hand.

Anyway, when it comes to carbs and stress, go for complex carbohydrates. Avoid the fast food run and candy. Instead, the best move would be to eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. A great stress-reducing meal in which you could mix a few grains and fruit together: oatmeal. Thanks to its complex carbohydrates, oatmeal provides the serotonin boost and its high levels of fiber aid in digestion—causing the release of serotonin at a slower and gradual pace as carbs are digested.

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Vitamin C

Consuming foods high in vitamin C, such as oranges and other citrus fruits, will not only stave off scurvy but it can reduce stress and boost the immune system. Vitamin C aids in lowering levels of cortisol and blood pressure during high-anxiety situations. Therefore, Vitamin C acts as a sort of stabilizer, as a study conducted in Germany back in 2002 concurred. Blueberries are also great stress-fighters, packed with Vitamin C and antioxidants, the latter of which also diminishes levels of cortisol.

Magnesium

Nothing makes stress and anxiety more punishing than feeling physically ill on top of it. That’s where magnesium comes in. Magnesium helps your muscles relax and temper the body’s overall response to stress. Obtaining an adequate amount of magnesium is essential for avoiding headaches and fatigue. Increased magnesium intake has also been found to improve sleep quality in older adults. Great sources of magnesium include raw spinach and other leafy greens, squash and pumpkin seeds, soybeans, mackerel, brown rice, avocado, bananas and figs.

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Lastly, if you’re looking for something simpler or more conventional, there are two popular choices that do work: tea and chocolate. Tea, whether caffeinated or not, has been found to demonstrate de-stressing benefits, according to a 2006 study.  In this study, after being exposed to stress, regular black tea drinkers not only recovered from it faster than coffee drinkers, but they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol! If it’s night time, go with a cup of green tea—it contains theanine, which has been linked to reducing anxiety and inducing sleep. And if tea isn’t enough, throw in dark chocolate. Rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, dark chocolate is a winner when it comes to relaxation. The darker the chocolate, the better the chances of emotional stress relief.

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Dr. Sam Sadati is the owner and practitioner of The Sadati Center of Aesthetic Dentistry in West Palm Beach and a leader in the world of cosmetic dentistry and smile design. He is the only accredited cosmetic dentist in all of South Florida and is one of only forty dentists in the world to receive an Accredited Fellow honor from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). Apart from creating beautiful smiles, Dr. Sadati enjoys photography, travel, and the opportunity to tell a good joke.  If you have a question or comment, dental-related or otherwise, connect with us on Facebook or Twitter. We always reply to our fans and followers!

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