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12 Foods That Reduce Stress Naturally

12 Foods That Reduce Stress Naturally

(Copyright DPC)

By    |   Friday, 09 December 2016 01:19 PM

The statistics are staggering. According to the American Institute of Stress, 44 percent of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago. Work stress causes 10 percent of strokes. And stress increases the risk of heart disease by a whopping 40 percent and heart attack by 25 percent.

Stress is inevitable, particularly this time of year. But fortunately it doesn’t have to be bad for us. According to leading experts, how we respond to stress may depend on the foods we eat.

“One of the best ways to calm internal chaos is eating a stress-free diet — one that focuses on maximizing nourishing nutrients while minimizing irritating inflammation,” Dr. Heidi Hanna, Ph.D, a fellow with the AIS and author of the best-selling book, “Stressaholic,” tells Newsmax Health.

“The choices you make for your meals and snacks can make a big difference in how your body and brain perform for you. Eating in a steady, stable and balanced way is the most important factor in regulating stress levels.”

Here are 12 stress-busting choices:

Dark chocolate. The cocoa bean is one of the highest sources of polyphenols, which are shown to decrease inflammation, boost immune function, and improve circulation. “The cocoa bean is nature’s most concentrated source of theobromine, a compound closely related to caffeine,” notes Hanna. “But unlike caffeine, theobromine has only a mild stimulatory effect on the central nervous system, which may be beneficial for increasing energy and focus without the caffeine crash many people experience.” The recommendation is to choose products with at least 70% cacao for the highest nutrient value.

Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies. Both are incredibly high in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and folate. Some, such as collards and kale, are particularly rich in calcium and potassium, both of which are important for blood pressure management, which is crucial in stressful situations. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower contain specific compounds that have been shown to aid in detoxification and may help eliminate carcinogenic substances in the body.

Fruit, especially berries. Packed with brain-boosting compounds, blueberries are rated as one of the highest foods in antioxidant value. Some studies show that blueberry consumption may help to heal oxidative damage in the brain, helping to reduce memory loss and potentially slowing down other types of cognitive decline. All berries — including raspberries, blackberries, cranberries and strawberries -- are high in the phytonutrients that provide anti-inflammatory protection caused by rampant stress.

Fatty fish. Studies have shown that eating fatty cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna — high in omega-3 fatty acids — may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, and boost immunity. Eating one to two servings of fish weekly also appears to reduce the risk of heart disease, particularly sudden cardiac death that may be related to high levels of stress.

Nuts and seeds. Both are rich in healthy fats, high in fiber, and easy to incorporate into your diet. Brazil nuts, especially, contain selenium which helps reduce oxidative stress that the stress hormone cortisol creates in the body. It also helps protect your cells and calm your nerves, say experts. Don’t overdo it. One or two Brazil nuts is sufficient. Don't forget about healthy nut butters such as almond butter as a great replacement for peanut butter, which may be higher in toxins and pro-inflammatory omega-6.

Beans and lentils. The soluble fiber found in beans and lentils can help decrease stressful situations such as high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol and triglycerides. They are also low-glycemic foods, which means that they take longer to break down into usable energy preventing the blood sugar spikes and crashes that can trigger inflammation and stress.

Eggs. Long considered a nutritional no-no, eggs have become a favorite brain-booster due to their high levels of choline, an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in the normal development of the brain, especially its memory center — the hippocampus. Eggs are rich in protein and B vitamins, and some studies show they may boost the production of healthy forms of cholesterol. Opt for eggs that are derived from grass-fed, free-range hens — preferably with a diet rich in omega-3 — for added benefit.

Olive, avocado, and coconut oils. Olive oil is a staple of the Mediterranean diet. Rich in monounsaturated fat and polyphenols, extra virgin olive oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory dressing for cold dishes. Avocado also reduces inflammation caused by stress. Although it's high in saturated fat, which has been found to increase inflammation when consumed from animal products, coconut oil has been shown to decrease inflammatory markers.

Sweet potato. Similar to its cousins, exotic fruits and vegetables, the sweet potato is good source of complex carbohydrate, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamins B6 and C, as well as dietary fiber. Working in concert, these nutrients are powerful antioxidants that help to heal inflammation in the body.

Spices. Although they’re often neglected when we're in a hurry, spices such as turmeric, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves not only offer significant anti-inflammatory benefits but they also enhance the flavor of food.

Fermented foods. Linda Illingworth, a dietitian from San Diego, says that these foods are good sources of probiotic bacteria which are largely responsible for making serotonin, the “feel good” hormone in our bodies. “Current research holds that these bacteria are responsible for improving our stress load by making us less responsive to stressful stimuli,” she tells Newsmax Health. Yogurt, kefir, Kombucha, and sauerkraut are examples of easy-to-find fermented foods.

Tea. Illingworth says that tea has a “secret weapon” — l-theanine, which research shows creates more alpha brain waves. This helps the brain to focus, while still getting a lift from the lighter caffeine load. “Instead of giving in to sweet craving during stress, use almond milk to steep chai tea for a low-glycemic flavorful treat,” she advises. Before going to bed, choose herbal teas like chamomile or valerian to provide soothing sleep which is a profound defense against stress.


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Stress is an inevitable part of modern life, and is linked to increased risks for stroke, heart disease, and mental health disorders. But a range of healthy foods can help ease stress and boost your mental — as well as physical — health and well-being. Here's an even dozen to include in your diet.
stress, reduction, food
Friday, 09 December 2016 01:19 PM
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