In addition to lifestyle changes that reduce the causes of stress, the role of nutrition on the body’s ability to mitigate the effects of stress is profound. Adding key nutrient-dense foods and a bit of mindfulness can make all the difference in how the body responds to stress. Try incorporating the following foods and practices to better support the demands of a full day.
This ceremonial-grade green tea powder, cultivated on pristine farms in Japan, is high in antioxidants and the amino acid theanine, helping stressed folks fight free-radical damage. Opt for organic options and enjoy before 2pm; matcha contains a small amount of caffeine that may interfere with healthy sleep patterns.
Studies show that consuming nutritionally dense berries like blueberries, raspberries, goji berries and strawberries can help the body fight oxidative stress, lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. The many health benefits of berries are due to their high levels of antioxidants, vitamin C and polyphenols.
Along with other fatty fish like mackerel, tuna, sardines and trout, fresh salmon contains vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids, both of which relieve the effects of stress and boost the body’s ability to produce mood-enhancing serotonin. Look for sustainable fresh and frozen options at your local natural foods store and fish market.
Leafy greens are high in folate, which help your body produce feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Plus, the magnesium and other minerals found in leafy greens support vascular health. Try adding spinach, kale and dandelion greens to your morning smoothie for a vitamin-rich energy boost.
Avocados are rich in magnesium, vitamin B, vitamin K and potassium. They are also fiber-rich and high in healthy fats, which can help increase feelings of fullness after meals. Nutrient-dense avocados fight inflammation and help lower cholesterol. Try adding a generous serving to grain bowls and sandwiches to kickstart your body’s ability to recover from stress.
Chronic stress can cause elevated cortisol levels, which leads to inflammation, pain and disrupted sleep patterns. Sweet potatoes are a nutrient-dense whole food source of carbohydrates, important for energy production, satiety and organ function, and critical for stress recovery. Plus, they’re loaded with stress-busting nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.
Research reveals that incorporating naturally fermented foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, may help reduce stress and anxiety. Fermented foods are shown to have a positive effect on mental health, likely due to interactions with bacteria in the gut. Certain strains of healthy bacteria increase the production of feel-good hormones, improving mood and stress response.
Dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, compounds found in plants that have been associated with a number of health benefits including reduced risk of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Not only does dark chocolate satisfy cravings for sweets, new studies show it can also help the body release fewer stress hormones, like cortisol and epinephrine.
Mindfulness Prior to Eating
The benefits of adding mindfulness to mealtimes are undeniable. Try incorporating three deep, slow breaths before a meal to relax the digestive system and bring awareness to food choices. Additionally, make sure to eliminate mealtime distractions, like screens and work-related matters, so it is easier to notice how particular foods make you feel.
Walk After Eating
A short walk post mealtime has an incredible number of health benefits. Even a 10-minute walk at a moderate pace can improve mood, boost blood flow and serotonin levels, aid digestion, lower glycemic index and promote better sleep. Since the goal is to gently stimulate the digestive process, don’t push it. Pay attention to how your body feels and adjust your pace accordingly.
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