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Stress-eating is an extremely common habit among adults, especially in America.
A study performed by the American Psychological Association found that up to 38% of American adults report overeating to manage their stress at least once a month.
But what many of these stressed out individuals may not know is that you can use stress-eating to your advantage by sticking to foods that will help to reduce that stress built up in your body.
Food counteracts stress in one of two ways: directly boosting your serotonin levels or lowering the amount of stress hormones in your body, like cortisol and adrenaline.
Cortisol, the main hormone associated with stress, is released by the adrenal gland and is a key part of your fight-or-flight instincts.
However, when the chemical is present in your body too long or too often, it can greatly increase your stress levels.
Eating anti-inflammatory or serotonin-boosting foods is the quickest way to rid yourself of that added stress.
Here, we’ve provided 6 of the most successful stress-reducing foods that can fit easily into your normal diet.
1. Whole Grains
Serotonin, often referred to as the happy hormone, has immense capabilities to lower stress levels while simultaneously giving your mood a boost. If you’re in search of a quick and easy dose of serotonin, look no further than carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates in particular give your brain an even bigger dose of serotonin, as they take a longer amount of time to digest. Whole grain pasta and bread products are excellent choices because they give you the quick serotonin you need along with higher amounts of nutrients than refined grains.
2. Chamomile Tea
Many types of herbal teas are ideal for reducing stress, but one of the most popular is chamomile tea. Containing no caffeine at all, this powerful herbal formula has been known to reduce anxiety levels and promote healthier sleep patterns. The source of chamomile tea’s soothing capabilities may be an antioxidant called apigenin, which bonds to brain receptors and helps to initiate sleep. If your stress often keeps you awake at night, consider testing out the calming effects of chamomile and other herbal teas for yourself.
Oranges and other citrus fruits are beneficial to stress relief mainly for their high amounts of vitamin C. As mentioned before, cortisol is the main stress-inducing hormone in your body. Vitamin C combats the effects of cortisol by helping your body to cut down levels of this impactful hormone more rapidly. It also has the added benefits of reducing inflammation and strengthening your immune system, thus relieving stress associated with becoming or being sick as well as pain and irritation caused by inflammation. If citrus fruits aren’t your favorite, strawberries, broccoli, and peppers also contain large amounts of this powerful antioxidant.
You’ve probably already heard about avocados as a token superfood, but you may not be aware that stress relief is included on this little green fruit’s list of superpowers. Among other essential nutrients such as potassium and fiber, avocados contain omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce anxiety, boost your mood, and fight back against stress hormones. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been linked with prevention of depression and heart disease as well. Avocados are delicious in guacamole, mashed up on toast, or even sliced into a salad, so be creative and find fun ways to incorporate them in as a stress-relief snack.
5. Warm Milk
That’s right, sipping warm milk to relieve stress isn’t a myth! Anyone who grew up drinking warm milk before bed in their childhood may experience an automatic sense of sleepiness or relaxation thanks to the familiar sensation. However, milk is powerful even without the need for nostalgia. The calcium found in dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese has been found to level out your mood while simultaneously soothing muscles. Warm beverages have a naturally relaxing quality to them, but you can drink your milk cold for the same calcium benefits. Or, if you’re lactose intolerant, try out some other calcium-rich foods like almonds, kale, and sunflower seeds.
6. Dark Chocolate
Yes, you read that correctly! Dark chocolate is an excellent source of stress relief not only for its powerful antioxidants, but also for the immensely positive impact it can have on your mood. The antioxidants contained in dark chocolate have the potential to reduce the amount of stress hormones, like cortisol, within the body. And, since eating chocolate always feels like a special occasion, the sheer act of treating yourself to something you enjoy can lift your spirits and lower your anxiety. However, be sure not to overindulge in this delectable treat, as high levels of sugar can quickly amp your stress levels back up again.
Managing stress can feel almost impossible at times, but by taking small steps to lower your stress hormone levels, heighten your mood, and make yourself happier, you can win back control of your life and your emotions.
One of the easiest steps to take is replacing typical junk food binges with healthy amounts of these delicious, stress-reducing foods.