There are many ways to manage and even reduce stress levels when you’re feeling tense. Food can be one of your biggest allies — or enemies. It can make your stress levels go down or up, so it’s critical to pay attention to what you’re eating when you’re feeling frazzled. Not to mention, just being stressed can increase your need for certain nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin B, selenium, and magnesium, etc.
Unhealthy eating patterns can send stress levels skyrocketing and potentially increase your risk of health problems in the future if you don’t address them. According to the June 2016 review in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences, a well-balanced and nutritious diet was likely the single most important ingredient for good health. So the next time you’re under pressure, arm yourself with this delicious arsenal of 10 stress-busting pantry staples:
Sometimes it’s the feeling that food or drinks induce, not their nutrients, that helps reduce stress. Drinking a warm cup of tea is one way to help make yourself feel calmer, says Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, an online nutrition coach and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Kentucky.
Dark chocolate in the diet can reduce stress in two ways — via its chemical impact and its emotional impact. Chocolate feels like such an indulgence that it can be a real treat to simply savor a piece of it, and that feeling alone can help to reduce stress, says Meyerowitz.
According to prior research, carbohydrates can temporarily increase levels of serotonin, a hormone that boosts mood and reduces stress. Once serotonin levels are increased, people under stress have better concentration and focus. Just make sure to choose healthy, unrefined carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes and whole grains, for better nutrition, and limit simple carbs, such as cookies, cake, and “white” foods, including white pasta and white bread. Unrefined carbs cause a quick spike and crash of blood sugar, while complex carbs contain vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, and so take longer to digest and have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, according to Harvard School of Public Health.
Avocados are not only delicious mashed into guacamole or sliced and added to a salad — they also offer omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy essential acids are known to reduce stress and anxiety, boost concentration, and improve mood, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Fight stress and help prevent heart disease by adding seafood to your plate. Fatty fish in particular are a great option because they’re heart-healthy, and their omega-3s may help ease depression because the nutrients easily interact with mood-related brain molecules, according to the Harvard Health Blog. Fatty fish include tuna, halibut, salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and lake trout, according to the American Heart Association.
Sipping warm milk before bed is a centuries-old home remedy for getting a better night’s sleep. According to SleepAdvisor.org, warm milk can have a relaxing effect on the body as well as on a psychological level. For people who grew up drinking warm milk before bed, the routine can signal that it’s time to go to sleep, for example. Also, the act of sipping a warm beverage curled up on the couch is innately relaxing.
Some studies have found that high levels of vitamin C may help ease stress levels. One double-blind study, published January 2015 in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, reported that vitamin C reduced stress levels in participants taking 500 mg per day, and also pointed to possible anxiety prevention.