Laura Iu, RD
These days, feeling stressed is something that no one is immune to. Stressful events (and they don’t have to be huge events but just the stressors of daily life) can exacerbate burnout, cause cortisol levels in our bodies to rise, affect food cravings and our mood. Because feeling stressed is inevitable, I believe that getting good at learning how to move through stress can be a lifelong skill. In addition to having tools like breathing, journaling and movement, another key to managing stress is through food!
While there’s no magic food that can cure stress, it is possible to reduce overall stress through adequate nourishment. Whether it’s because of the specific nutrients it provides or the steady energy it gives, you may find that adding some of these foods can help you feel less stressed, more energized, and feeling like you can take on the day.
Dark Chocolate – Not that we needed another reason to enjoy it, but dark chocolate contains tryptophan, an amino acid precursor to serotonin, which is a chemical in your brain that can help decrease perceived stress and improve mood.
Bananas with Peanut butter – This classic duo is a delicious way to reduce your stress. Bananas contain B-vitamins, including B-6, which is key to producing more neurotransmitters like serotonin. Adding nuts increases satiety and provides a rich source of magnesium, which helps to relax the body, and in turn helps reduce stress.
Fermented foods – Studies have found that probiotics play a role in cognitive function and relieving psychological stress. Miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha are just a few fermented foods that contain probiotics, friendly bacteria that can support your gut-brain connection.
Greens – Veggies like watercress, spinach, okra, and chard contain magnesium, a mineral that is important to many pathways, hormones and neurotransmitters that are involved in mood regulation. Magnesium is easily depleted during times of stress, and vice versa, a deficiency in magnesium can also enhance your body’s susceptibility to stress. If you find yourself caught in a cycle of feeling fatigued, irritated or stressed, it may be worth experimenting with a variety of magnesium rich food sources (including whole grains!) Whether the veggies are part of a savory meal or added into a smoothie, focus on flavors and methods of preparation that you enjoy.
Lastly, eat well and eat regularly.
When our bodies are undernourished, stress can take an even greater toll on our health. So if you’re hoping to reduce stress, don’t skip meals! Regular nourishment, every 3-5 hours helps regulate blood sugar and cortisol levels.