Forget everything you’ve heard about stress-eating being a bad thing. If you put the right foods in your mouth, then eating when your nerves are jangling can actually calm you down. And that’s great news, because the last thing you need is more stress, which over time can increase your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity The following listed below are the best foods to soothe stress and can counteract the damage that chronic pressure does to your body.
Almonds, Pistachios & Walnuts
When all hell breaks loose, reach for a handful of almonds. They’re bursting with vitamin E, an antioxidant that bolsters the immune system. Almonds also contain B vitamins, which may help your body hold up during seriously unpleasant events . About a quarter cup every day is all you need. Another easy way to get a fix is to switch from traditional peanut butter to almond butter on high-tension days.
Sick of almonds? Shell pistachios or crack walnuts. Both will help keep your heart from racing when things heat up. “We experience immediate cardiovascular responses to stress because of the ‘fight or flight’ response,” says Sheila G. West, M.D., associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State. When stress strikes, the hormone adrenaline raises blood pressure to boost energy — so you’re prepared to run if you need to, but because we seldom need to fight or flee, it’s better to blunt the strain on your heart. Walnuts have also been found to lower blood pressure, both at rest and under stress, West says.
The next time stress has you hankering for a high-fat, creamy treat, skip the ice cream and try some homemade guacamole – the thick, rich texture can satisfy your craving and reduce those frantic feelings and the monounsaturated fat and potassium can lower blood pressure. One of the best ways to reduce high blood pressure, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is to get enough potassium — and just half an avocado offers 487 milligrams, more than you’ll get from a medium-size banana. To whip up your own avocado salad dressing, puree a medium avocado with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Science backs up the old warm-milk remedy for insomnia and restlessness. Turns out calcium can reduce muscle spasms and soothe tension, says Mary Dallman, Ph.D., professor of physiology at the University of California, San Francisco. A glass of milk (preferably skim or 1 percent) may also reduce stressful PMS symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, and irritability. According to a 2005 study from the Archives of Internal Medicine, women who drank four or more servings of low-fat or skim milk per day had a 46 percent lower risk of pre-period misery than women who had no more than one serving per week.
Carbohydrates make the brain produce more serotonin, the same relaxing brain chemical released when you eat dark chocolate. The more slowly your body absorbs carbs, the more steadily serotonin flows, according to Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., a former MIT research scientist and co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet. Because oatmeal is high in fiber, few things take longer for your stomach to digest, says Elizabeth Somer, M.A., R.D., author of Food & Mood. Wurtman also recommends topping it with a swirl of jam for a quicker release of serotonin. When you know it’s going to be a long day, avoid heavily processed varieties (e.g: the sugary kind that come in packets meant for the microwave), which are digested more quickly, and take the time to make thick-cut old-fashioned oats.
Stressing over a job interview or presentation at work? Pour yourself a glass of orange juice or peel yourself an orange. The magic nutrient here is vitamin C. In a study in Psychopharmacology, German researchers subjected 120 people to a public-speaking task plus a series of math problems. Those who took 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C reported that they felt less stressed, and their blood pressure and levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) returned to normal faster. “Vitamin C is also a well-known immune system booster,” says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Stress hormones have an archenemy: omega-3 fatty acids. A 2003 study from Diabetes & Metabolism found that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids kept cortisol and adrenaline in check. Omega-3 fatty acids also protect against heart disease, according to a 2002 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. ”Eat a 200g serving of fish, especially fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and light tuna, at least twice a week,” Jamieson-Petonic says. Not a fish eater? For another omega-3 punch, buy foods fortified with DHA (you’ll find this particular fatty acid in eggs, yogurt, milk, and soy products)
Magnesium is a wonder mineral First, it can help lower your stress levels, keeping your body in a state of relative ease. Not getting enough magnesium may trigger migraine headaches and make you feel fatigued. Just one cup of spinach provides 40 percent of your daily value — so try substituting it for lettuce on sandwiches and salads.