People have a tendency to eat unhealthy foods when they are stressed, leading to poor health. Here are 10 foods you can chow down on when feeling stressed to avoid loading up on heavy calories and reduce anxiety.
Oatmeal with Cinnamon and Honey
A hot, hearty bowl of oats delivers that yummy carb filled experience and bumps up your feel-good hormone serotonin. And because it’s also packed slowly digested fiber, it won’t cause an inconsistent spike in blood sugar levels like some other foods do. Add cinnamon (shown to ease frustration) and a teaspoon of honey (satisfies a sweet tooth and boosts immunity). Opt for the cleanest oatmeal option you can buy.
Dark Chocolate-Covered Almonds
The “chocolate cure” is real: A 2009 study by Swiss researchers suggests that eating dark chocolate reduces levels of stress hormones. It also lowers blood pressure nearly as well as drugs, per earlier studies. Meanwhile, almonds are rich in energy-boosting protein and good-for-you monounsaturated fat, which another study linked to lower rates of depression.
Homemade kale chips have just a few ingredients: olive oil, kale, and maybe some salt. A recent study found that people who ate olive oil daily felt more satisfied and enjoyed a bigger boost of serotonin than those eating other types of fat. As for kale, research from the Harvard School of Public Health found that people whose blood contained high levels of carotenoids (an antioxidant) were significantly more optimistic. Check out this quick how-to video for amazing kale chips.
Get your caffeine fix by blending java with soymilk (the folate it contains may boost serotonin levels), unsweetened cocoa powder (cue the dopamine, as with coffee), and a ripe banana (potassium lowers blood pressure).
Nuts and Seeds
Grab a combo of pistachios, cashews, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds for a powerhouse package of fiber, antioxidants, and unsaturated fatty acids, all of which lower blood pressure. In one study, pistachios blunted the effects of anxiety in people taking a math test. Omega-3 essential fatty acids in walnuts have been linked to reduced rates of depression, the selenium in cashews and almonds has been shown to elevate mood, and tryptophan in pumpkin seeds may help the brain make serotonin. Just stick to one handful.
They’re sweet, delicious, and packed with nutrients—including optimism-boosting carotenoids and fiber (it’s also low on the Glycemic Index). “You’ll get the carby, sweet sensation without the blood-sugar spike,” says Ramsey. Make the most of your sweet spuds with more than 200 sweet potato recipes.
Yogurt with Berries
Find the creaminess you desire in plain low-fat Greek yogurt. It’s a great source of energizing protein and calcium, which your body needs to release feel-good neurotransmitters. Add fresh berries for sweetness and a mega-dose of stress-busting antioxidants and immunity-boosting vitamin C.
Cozy up to a bowl of spicy Indian food and two things happen. When your brain detects capsaicin—the molecule in chili peppers—it releases endorphins to calm things down. And curcumin (curry) actually shields key parts of the brain against the effects of stress, per recent research. Add spinach for a hit of magnesium, which has been shown to ease tension headaches.
A 2011 study linked L-theanine—the amino acid in green tea—with feeling cooler under pressure. The green stuff also comes with a jolt of caffeine, so you’ll enjoy a focused calm. Check out these five pretty spectacular reasons to drink more green tea.
Guacamole with Carrots
Creamy avocado is high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, which lowers blood pressure, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Monounsaturated fat also helps keep receptors in the brain sensitive to serotonin. With raw carrots, the simple act of crunching is a satisfying stress stopper.