8 Ways to Eat your Way to Less Stress

Caregivers: Carbohydrates can lower stress. Image courtesy of Carlos Porto

There is a reason pasta is considered a comfort food. And ice cream. And chocolate. All those “friendly foods” really do help make you feel better on a hormonal level—and by all means you should be indulging in them (isn’t that just the best news you’ve gotten all week?). Just be sure to indulge in moderation—otherwise the certain weight gain will simply be a further cause for anxiety.

Here are eight foods that will do your soul good:

  • A hot cuppa: Sipping a warm drink has a soothing effect. While warm milk is the best (and strong coffee probably the worst), any warm liquid will work. Try herbs like lavender and chamomile for ultra relaxation.
  • Carbs: Yes, you’re right: That steaming bowl of oatmeal (or pasta or potatoes) is friendly. Carbohydrates actually increase your serotonin levels, which improves your mood and reduces your stress. Just be intelligent about what and how you indulge—it’s the cheese sauce and butter that will (literally) kill you.
  • Avocados: Filled with omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce anxiety, increase concentration and generally improve your mood, avocados are great for your overall health, as well as stress reduction.
  • Fatty fish: Salmon, tuna, halibut, herring, mackerel and sardines are also loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to their stress reducing capabilities, they will improve your cardiovascular health and reduce depression by improving communication between nerve cells.
  • Nuts: Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are packed full of Vitamin B and fatty acids, not only helping reduce stress, but actually lowering your blood pressure.
  • Vitamin C: In large doses (1000-3000 mg) vitamin C has been shown to reduce levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol.
  • Dark Chocolate: The potent antioxidants in dark chocolate actually lower the stress hormones in your body. An ounce or two is all you need, so don’t go overboard. Two important notes: Milk chocolate is demonstrably less effective and white chocolate doesn't count at all.
  • Dairy: Calcium (and Vitamin D) helps muscles relax (remember that warm milk at the top of the list?). Yes, fat free milk is a better choice than ice cream—but if you pick the latter, we’ll never tell.

Of course, before you alter your diet dramatically, you should talk to your doctor, especially if you are on medications. Drug interactions are no trivial matter. And always remember that ugly word: moderation in all.