10 foods that help relieve stress
Down these stress-busting feeds and wave goodbye to the bad vibes.
Sometimes you don’t have time to sit and meditate, go for a frustration-busting jog or watch re-runs of Sex and the City until you forget all about your mounting to-do list and how that jerk in the white car totally cut you off this morning. Sometimes there’s no time to count your inhales and exhales, but there’s always time to eat and drink, right? Right. And thanks to these clever foods and their major stress-nixing properties, now you can do both.
Milk can help you shake a bad mood and clock some quality zzzs. Since it also boasts a healthy level of magnesium, nutritionist Liesl Doehring says it can help ease achy muscles too. “To assist with relaxation, use one glass of milk to make a freshly brewed chai one hour before bedtime,” she tips.
As well as upping your levels of feel-good dopamine, dark choccy boasts a heft store of muscle-relaxing magnesium and sleep-promoting tryptophan. Opt for chocolate with at least 70 per cent cocoa and a low sugar content. Enjoy a couple of pieces with a refreshing cup of peppermint tea after dinner to unwind before bedtime.
“Quark is a type of soft cheese that’s an excellent source of protein and calcium,” says Doehring. Both of these nutrients are required for the synthesis of dopamine, serotonin and melatonin – neurotransmitters that keep you chill. Use it like you would natural yoghurt or sour cream – dollop it on your morning muesli, use it as a topping for baked sweet potato or mix with herbs and spread on crackers. “I like to combine quark with fresh fruit and nuts for a good hit of satisfying protein, healthy fats and fibre at breakfast,” says Doehring.
Green tea contains the alpha brain wave-boosting amino acid L-theanine and as nutritionist Stephanie Malouf adds, “These alpha waves create a deep state of relaxation and alertness, similar to what’s achieved through meditation,” Score. It can also reduce anxious feelings, so substitute your morning coffee with a green tea if you experience anxiety.
Dark leafy greens
Fill up on greens such as spinach, rocket, chard and watercress to get a dose of folate. Why? It’s a B vitamin necessary for the production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters that’ll help you handle any obstacles life throws your way. According to Malouf, folate is easily destroyed by heat, so keep those greens raw: munch on a big leafy salad for lunch or add a handful of baby spinach to your green smoothies for a vitamin B fix.
“Salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, mackerel and herring are excellent sources of tyrosine, glutamine, tryptophan and omega-3 fatty acids,” explains Doehring. They are champs at helping you relax, so incorporate 150g of oily fish into your diet two to three times a week, according to Doehring.
According to Malouf, 95 per cent of your body’s serotonin is produced in your gut. Since serontonin plays an important role in keeping you happy, calm and relaxed, taking care of your gut bacteria is essential to staying Zen. Malouf says to increase your intake of probiotic-rich foods such as keffir, yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi. As an added bonus, studies show fermented foods can also decrease your feelings of anxiety, so try sipping on a cup of kombucha while you study or prep for a work preso.
Cashews, walnuts, macadamias and almonds are a source of plant-based protein, magnesium, calcium and vitamin B6, says Doehring. “These nutrients are essential for the production of serotonin, dopamine and GABA,” she explains. Since serotonin is also a precursor to the sleep hormone melatonin, a handful of cashews could help you nod off easier tonight. Sprinkle nuts through your salad for crunch or combine them cacao nibs and pepitas in a snack pack.
Feeling wound-up thanks to a serious case of DOMS? Nosh on a banana. They’re full for potassium and magnesium (natural muscle relaxants), not to mention the sleep-boosting tryptophan. Add a banana to your morning or post-workout smoothie.
Ever wondered why blueberries are, well, blue? It’s all thanks to an antioxidant called anthocyanin, says Malouf. This particular antioxidant helps your brain produce dopamine, which controls feelings of pleasure and helps you stay focused. Enjoy a handful before a meditation sesh to keep your concentration in check, or use them for a 3pm pick-me-up when your stress levels are on the rise.
This story appeared in the September issue of Women’s Fitness.