Nutrition is intrinsic to maintaining proper physical and mental health. Although it's tempting to reach for comfort food during stressful times, foods and drinks that may make you feel better in the moment can actually cause more stress on the body, Keri Glassman, founder and CEO of Nutritious Life, explains. She suggests avoiding overly processed foods that contain large amounts of sugar and salt, highly caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda, and alcohol, especially when you're already feeling stressed out, as they can increase the production of cortisol (a stress hormone) and cause unnecessary strain on the body while digesting and metabolizing.
"The quality of the choices you make in regards to the foods you eat will absolutely determine the quality of your energy, your health, and your body's ability to ward off stress," according to Dr. Daryl Gioffre, celebrity nutritionist and author. In order to fuel your body with what it needs to fight free-radicals caused by stress, there are a few foods that both Gioffre and Glassman recommend you incorporate into your diet.
Ahead, learn eight recipes that relieve stress thanks to their healthy, nutritionist-approved ingredients.
The Facts: Glassman suggests starting the day with a bowl of oatmeal to relieve stress. It contains complex carbs that help promote the release of serotonin, she explains. Top a bowl with blueberries and seeds to double up on the mood-boosting nutrients. Gioffre points out that blueberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, which fight free radicals and help with stress levels, and seeds are high in magnesium (inadequate magnesium intake is linked to anxiety).
The Recipe: Whip up a bowl of Half Baked Harvest's Earl Grey blueberry oatmeal to start your day off right. Steep the milk with a teabag to give the classic breakfast something special, then top with fruits and seeds.
The Facts: According to Glassman, studies have linked celery to low blood pressure, making it a healthy, stress-relieving food. It's also high in antioxidants and contains vitamins B6, C, K, potassium, and folate. Crunch on it plain or add it to a slaw or salad to incorporate it into your diet.
The Recipe: This Minimalist Baker Super Cleansing Slaw with Rosemary Dressing is a tasty way to slip some celery into a meal. Toss together chopped up veggies, like cabbage, fennel, apples, celery, beets, and carrots for a healthy side or larger salad.
The Facts: Glassman and Gioffre agree that leafy greens are key to naturally reducing stress levels in the body. Think spinach, kale, watercress, and romaine. They contain folate, which produces dopamine (a pleasure-inducing chemical).
The Recipe: You could easily whip up a big salad loaded with leafy, green vegetables, or you could swap things up with this Hello Glow's green soup. It contains kale, broccoli, and coconut milk to pack a nutritious punch.
The Facts: Stress can cause you to use up your vitamin B reserves, which are essential to the nervous system. Balance out your stress response with something as simple as a handful of raw nuts for a boost of magnesium and potassium. Gioffre suggests snacking on almonds, macadamia nuts, and walnuts, while Glassman suggests cashews and pistachios. Cashews are packed with zinc, and pistachios can help maintain levels of essential fatty acids and prevent inflammation.
The Recipe: If you want to go above and beyond a handful of nuts, try sprinkling some on a healthy salad. Try this Cauliflower Salad with Nectarines and Pistachio Dukkah from The First Mess to ease stress in the kitchen.
Grass-Fed Roast Beef
The Facts: Grass-fed beef contains high amounts of conjugated linoleic acid (otherwise known as CLA), which can give your brain a boost, and it also contains zinc. Because of this, it makes Glassman's list of stress-relieving foods.
The Recipe: For a brain-boosting main course, try your hand at The Modern Proper's pot roast recipe. Bake a chuck roast in a Dutch oven and season with fragrant herbs.
Finish the roast off with a sprinkle of parsley for extra flavor.
The Facts: Gioffre and Glassman both point to peppers as food that relieves stress. This is due to their vitamin C content, which is thought to lower cortisol.
The Recipe: Add chopped peppers to a salad, eat them as a snack, or make a meal of it with this turkey stuffed peppers recipe from The Modern Proper. It calls for ground turkey, onion, quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, and large bell peppers. Make a batch for an easy, healthy weeknight dinner.
The Facts: Avocados have been linked to low blood pressure and contain healthy fats that promote blood flow to the brain, Glassman explains. In case you don't already eat an avocado a day, you might consider adding the superfood to your diet.
The Recipe: Not only does this WuHaus salad contain avocados, but it's also packed with yummy blood orange slices and romaine lettuce for another dose of minerals and folate for stress relief. Toss together lettuce, blood orange slices, avocado, fennel, garbanzo beans, and pumpkin seeds then top with a healthy homemade dressing.
The Facts: Chocolate is a proven mood-booster, partly because it causes the body to release endorphins. Glassman points out that it also contains magnesium to help you feel calm.
The Recipe: You can buy a few squares of dark chocolate to have on hand or you can make your own healthy dessert. These dark chocolate covered coconut bars are easy to make and even more fun to eat. All you need is maple syrup, coconut cream, peanut butter, vanilla extract, coconut flakes, dark chocolate, and your choice of toppings.
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