When it comes to overall healthy living, it is important to be mindful about what kinds of food you decide to consume. Not only does a well-balanced diet contribute to your health, but there are certain superfoods containing vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants that aid in reducing stress and tension levels.
Cortisol is the primary hormone responsible for stress. While it does regulate sleep cycles, reduce inflammation, increase blood sugar and control blood pressure, it is known as the “stress hormone” because it is released when you are in a stressful situation or when your body is under physical stress. While healthy for a short period of time, in the long-term it creates stress in your body and increases your blood pressure.
Here are some foods that actually raise cortisol levels that should be avoided when dealing with stress:
- High-sugar foods
- Simple carbs (ex. pastries)
At healf, we believe that the food you put in your body should support your overall health. Here is a list of 7 superfoods we have compiled that have been scientifically proven to help aid in reducing stress levels.
Our list of stress-reducing superfoods
The following foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants and can be easily incorporated into your diet.
1. Green leafy vegetables
Green leafy vegetables like spinach contain folate, which produces dopamine. Dopamine is a pleasure-inducing brain chemical that helps the body stay calm. A study of over 14,500 people found there is a significant inverse relationship between higher intakes of selenium, zinc, and B vitamins (including folate) and depression. This means that there is a positive relationship between folate, found in leafy vegetables, and depression reduction.
Additionally, another study with college students found that when students incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their every day diet, they reported feeling calmer, happier and more energetic.
Studies show that Vitamin C plays a huge role in the body’s stress response, and oranges are full of Vitamin C. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), one medium-sized naval orange provides over half of the recommended dietary allowances for Vitamin C. Oranges have also been found to help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Oysters are rich in zinc, Vitamin B, magnesium, and antioxidants. More than any other food, oysters contain more zinc per serving with 32 milligrams (for six raw oysters) which is 400% of your recommended daily allowance. The addition of Vitamin B in oysters also helps stabilize your mood and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
The more stressed we become, the more our magnesium levels tend to drop. Adding foods rich in magnesium to your diet, like oysters, can help reduce stress and fight stress-related diseases.
The omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have anti-inflammatory properties that help counteract the negative effects of stress hormones and cortisol while regulating adrenaline levels. Omega-3 has been found to protect against heart disease, depression, stroke, and lowering blood pressure. A study found that omega-3 reduced overall cortisol by up to 33%.
Salmon is also high in Vitamin D. Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with increased risk of anxiety and depression. Adding more Vitamin D to your diet through foods like salmon can help counteract stress and cortisol levels.
Eggs are the ultimate superfood to counteract stress as they are packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants needed for a healthy stress response. As one of the few natural sources of Vitamin D, eggs are linked to several important health benefits including mood regulation and reducing symptoms of depression.
Studies have found a connection between Vitamin D and mood. Increased levels of Vitamin D led to a reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms. Eggs are also rich in choline, a nutrient found in only a few foods that is shown to play an important role in brain health and protection against stress.
6. Dark chocolate
Whoever said chocolate was bad for your health was clearly not aware of the antioxidants that can help reduce stress hormones. A study found that consuming 40 grams of chocolate daily for two weeks reduced stress levels in participants. The antioxidants in cocoa trigger the blood vessel walls to relax which lowers blood pressure and improves circulation. Additionally, dark chocolate contains unique natural substances that create a euphoric-like sense that helps counteract feelings of stress.
Chamomile has been used for thousands of years as a natural stress reducer. It has been shown to enhance sleep, improve sleep quality and promote relaxation and sleepiness. Adequate sleep is an important stress reliever and helps to optimize immune function, which is often weakened by stress.
One study found that taking 1.5 grams of chamomile extract reduced salivary cortisol levels and helped improve anxiety symptoms through its sedative and muscle relaxing properties.
While we all deal with stress and anxiety in varying levels, the food we choose to consume can help counteract those negative feelings and thoughts. Reducing stress and anxiety can be as easy as incorporating any of the 7 superfoods listed above into your diet in delicious, healthy ways.
In addition to the foods listed, here are some products we recommend to help aid you in reducing your stress levels in a natural, healthy way:
- Bare Biology: Rise & Shine Omega 3 with Vitamin D3 Capsules
- Rheal Superfoods: Clean Greens
- Pukka: Three Chamomile