Healthy Foods That Make You Happy
(BlackDoctor.org) — There are many ways to manage and reduce stress levels, and your diet and nutrition choices can have a very powerful effect on whether those levels go up or down. Certain foods provide comfort and actually increase levels of hormones in the body that naturally fight stress. The right food can also help relieve stress by lowering the levels of hormones that trigger it.
For something delicious and therapeutic, relax and enjoy:
1. A warm cup of something. Sometimes, it’s the effect of a food or drink that can help reduce stress, not necessarily its nutrients. A warm cup of tea can actually calm many people, says Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, LD, online nutrition coach and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Ky. There’s the soothing effect of sipping a warm drink, regardless of the flavor — but certain herbs, like lavender and chamomile, have been shown to have a relaxing effect on their own, Meyerowitz says.
2. Chocolate. Dark chocolate in the diet can reduce stress in two ways — its chemical impact and its emotional impact. Chocolate feels like such an indulgence that it can be a real treat to simply savor a piece of it, and that feeling alone can help to reduce stress, says Meyerowitz. Dark chocolate, which is also rich in antioxidants, can also help to reduce stress by lowering levels of stress hormones in the body, according to a Swiss study in which participants ate about 1.5 ounces per day for two weeks. Just avoid excess calories in your diet by not overindulging in chocolate, advises Meyerowitz
3. Carbs. Carbohydrates have been found to increase levels of serotonin, a chemical in the body that can boost mood and reduce stress. Once serotonin levels are increased, people under stress experience improved cognitive function, meaning they can concentrate and work better. Meyerowitz notes the comforting effect of carbohydrates in the diet that can reduce stress — savoring a bowl of pasta or macaroni and cheese feels soothing and can help you to relax. Just make sure to choose healthy carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and whole-grains for better nutrition, and limit fat-laden, calorie-dense toppings.
4. Fatty Fish. This type of fish is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and an excellent way to use diet and nutrition to reduce stress because they also offer a major benefit to cardiovascular health. Omega-3 fatty acids and fatty fish have also been found to ease depression, because the chemicals improve communication between nerve cells. Fatty fish include tuna, halibut, salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and lake trout.
5. Avocados. Avocados are not only delicious mashed into guacamole or sliced onto a salad — they’re also packed with omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy essential acids are known to reduce stress and anxiety, boost concentration, and improve mood. Meyerowitz emphasizes the importance of getting the right amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet for overall health, in addition to the benefit of helping to reduce stress.
6. Nuts. Nuts are full of vitamins, including B vitamins, and healthy fatty acids as well. According to Meyerowitz, B vitamins are an important part of a healthy diet and can help to reduce stress. Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts can even help lower blood pressure levels. According to one study, pistachios in particular were found to have a role in reducing stress levels. Just remember to limit servings to just a handful a day to avoid excess calories.
7. Vitamin C. Some studies have found that high levels of vitamin C help ease stress levels. One double-blind study reported on the value of taking 3,000 milligrams of vitamin C in a slow-release formula to reduce stress and levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol. Another study looked at the stress reduction effects of taking a supplement containing 1,000 mg of C, plus B vitamins, calcium, and magnesium. Eating citrus fruits, including oranges, grapefruits, and strawberries is a good start, but you would need a supplement to reach such high levels of these nutrients.