By Holly Pevzner
While we may feel better in the short-term after that hot-fudge brownie sundae, healthy foods are better choices when you’re feeling stressed out. Stress can take a toll on your body’s natural defenses, but eating these foods can offer relief:
1. Nuts. Stress depletes our B vitamin stores, and snacking on nuts helps replenish them. The potassium in nuts is also key: Penn State researchers found that a couple servings of potassium-packed pistachios a day can lower blood pressure and reduce the strain stress puts on the heart.
2. Red peppers. While oranges get all of the vitamin C hype, red peppers have about twice as much (95 vs. 50 mg per 1/2-cup serving). In one study, people who took high doses of C before engaging in stress-inducing activities had lower blood pressure and recovered faster from the cortisol surge than those who got a placebo.
3. Salmon. In one study, people who took a daily omega-3 supplement (containing DHA and EPA, found in salmon) for 12 weeks reduced their anxiety by 20 percent compared to the placebo group. You won’t get the same mood boost from the type of omega-3s (ALA) in flax, walnuts and soy, though, so shoot for about two servings a week of wild Alaskan salmon or other oily fish, and/or talk to your doctor about DHA supplements.
4. Spinach. This leafy green veggie is rich in stress-busting magnesium. Magnesium helps regulate the stress hormone cortisol as well as blood pressure. And since magnesium gets flushed out of the body when you’re stressed, it’s crucial to get enough.
5. Oatmeal. This warm and comforting breakfast food also helps your brain generate serotonin, which soothes stress. Complex carbs like oatmeal are also digested more slowly than refined carbs, which can spike blood sugar, messing with moods and stress.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)