Nutrition is intrinsic to maintaining proper physical and mental health. "Foods that are highly acidic can make us feel sluggish, tired, and drained of energy—even after a good night's sleep—but certain foods can also increase feelings of anxiety," according to Dr. Daryl Gioffre, celebrity nutritionist and author of Get Off Your Acid. "Conversely, eating foods that are alkaline-forming will remove toxins from your body, lower insulin and inflammation, and increase energy and your happy, feel-good hormones," he explains.
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, MS, RD, CDN 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," Gioffre states. In order to fuel your body with what it needs to fight free-radicals and acidity caused by stress, there are a few foods that both Gioffre and Glassman recommend you incorporate in 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, as Gioffre points out blueberries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, which fight free radicals and help with stress levels, and seeds are high in magnesium (a known stress reliever).
The Recipe: Whip up a bowl of this earl grey blueberry oatmeal to start your day off right. Steep the milk with a tea bag to give the classic breakfast something special then top with fruits and seeds.
The Facts: According to Glassman, studies have linked celery to low pressure, making it a healthy, stress-relieving food. It's also high in antioxidants and vitamins B6, C, K, potassium, and folate. Crunch on it plain or add it to a slaw or salad to incorporate it in your diet.
The Recipe: This 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're high in minerals, which relieve stress, and 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 mix things up with this super green soup. It contains spinach, broccoli, and mint 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, Gioffre explains. 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, according to Glassman.
The Recipe: If you want to go above and beyond a handful of raw nuts, try sprinkling some on a healthy salad. Try this cauliflower salad with nectarines and pistachio dukkah to ease stress in the kitchen.
Grass-Fed Roast Beef
The Facts: Beef contains conjugated linoleic acid (otherwise known as CLA), Glassman explains. Because this healthy fat can give your brain a boost and contains vitamin C and zinc, it makes her list of stress-relieving foods.
The Recipe: For a brain-boosting main course, try your hand at this pot roast recipe. Bake a chuck roast in a dutch oven and season with fragrant herbs. Finish it off with a sprinkle of parsley.
The Facts: Gioffre and Glassman both point to peppers for a food that relieves stress. This is due to their vitamin C content, which is thought to lower cortisol and keep your body balanced.
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. 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: Avocado contains healthy fats that promote blood flow to the brain and has been linked to low blood pressure, 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 salad contain avocados, 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: Glassman explains that dark chocolate helps promote serotonin and contains magnesium to help you feel calm. It's also high in a chemical called anandamide, which can block feelings of pain and depression, according to Gioffre.
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.