13 Foods That Turn Off Stress Hormones

by Ahmed Zayed, MD on May 5, 2020

It seems that wherever we go, whatever we do, there always will be some kind of stressor, having a negative influence on our mental and physical health. Whether it is a family issue, a work issue, or a relationship issue that is repeating itself on a daily level, it will cause our stress levels to increase. When that negative influence continues on a day-to-day basis, we are looking at being exposed to more risks than we could ever imagine. 

That is why today we are bringing you a list of 10 delicious and healthy foods, all of which have been scientifically proven to be able to lower our stress levels. By adding more of these foods to your daily diet, you are bound to experience an improvement in your mood, energy, and overall well being. 

Why it is important to lower our stress levels?

Stress is described as the inability to cope with specific demands and/or events. It is a completely natural feeling that all have experienced it at some point in our life. But it becomes a problem when we are dealing with stress on a daily level. 

When we are faced with a stressful situation, stress triggers our body’s “fight or flight response.” Because of this exact reaction, certain hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are being released as their levels are rising. As a response, we experience slower digestion, rapid heart rate, high alertness, tense muscles, etc. – all of which are ways that our body uses to prepare itself to either flight or fight when faced with the supposed thread (1).

But when we are faced with a stressful situation, day after day, over a long period of time, chronic stress starts to develop. Chronic stress makes it difficult for the body to return to its normal stress hormone levels. In return, this has multiple negative effects on many body systems such as the cardiovascular, respiratory, immune, and reproductive systems (2).

Constant exposure to chronic stress can increase our risk of diabetes type 2, heart disease, heart attack, insomnia, stroke, depression, anxiety, and even lead to violent acts and suicide (3). This is why it is of vital importance that we do what we can to lower our stress levels and our exposure to the major stressors in our life.

Facing the stressor and eliminating it is a priority one. This is often quite a difficult task, so you might need professional help in the process. Yoga, regular physical activity, lots of quality sleep, massage, acupuncture, etc. are all scientifically proven ways which you can use to efficiently lower your stress levels (4, 5).

10 foods that will help you lower your stress level

One thing that you probably did not think of using in your fight against stress is food. That would be ten different delicious foods to be more precise. The best thing about them is that they are nutritious and good for your health. This is very important because, as many of you know, and have probably experienced until now, stress often leads to binge eating, especially junk food and other empty calories. 

Binge eating is highly unhealthy and often leads to obesity and obesity. So next time you feel stressed, instead of reaching out for a chocolate bar or a bag of potato chips, reach for one of these ten amazing foods and help your body fight to reduce those dangerously high-stress levels the best way that it can!

  • Dark chocolate

Of course, we will start this list with our absolute favorite one – dark chocolate! As we mentioned earlier, while under stress, most of us reach out for some comfort food. Well, dark chocolate is the perfect example of how healthy comfort food looks like. And so, dark chocolate helps lower the stress levels via its chemical and its emotional impact on the body.

Chocolate lovers rejoice! Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids which makes it highly beneficial for our health. What many people don’t know is that dark chocolate can help alleviate stress successfully. Studies confirm that consuming dark chocolate with a high concentration of cacao (at least 70%) exhibits positive effects on stress management, mood, memory, immunity, and inflammation. Eating dark chocolate every day can lower your cortisol levels, and as seen above that’s the main stress hormone. 

When you want to lower your stress levels with the help of food, you need to look for food that is rich in antioxidants. Luckily, apart from its great taste, dark chocolate is filled with plenty of antioxidants. A 2009 study investigated the effects of the consummation of 40 gr of dark chocolate a day for two weeks. The results showed that the daily consummation of dark chocolate has helped improve the participant’s gut microbiome and energy levels while freeing them from the build-up stress in their bodies (6).

  • Nuts

Multiple nutrients are to be found in these salty bites of deliciousness. Several of the B vitamins, Vitamin E, healthy fatty acids, selenium, iron, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants, and many other vitamins and minerals are what you will get to introduce to your body by eating a handful of mixed nuts as a quick snack. 

Of the variety to choose from, we would recommend Brazil nuts, almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are the best choices. All of them can lower your high blood pressure that has resulted due to chronic stress. According to a past study, pistachios have been proven helpful in the treatment of acute stress (7). A study published in the journal Nutrients has suggested that individuals who have been struggling with anxiety and high-stress levels can benefit from magnesium. Luckily, we mentioned nuts being the perfect source of magnesium, among other nutrients. Just be careful, though – nuts are high in calories and healthy fats, so a handful a day may be more than enough (8).

  • Avocados

You might want to explore around all of those avocado recipes and learn how to make your delicious guacamole because believe it or not – avocados can help lower your stress levels. Avocados offer Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been scientifically proven, on multiple occasions, to be able to help you with a few health issues. Improving your mood, boosting your focus, and reducing stress – all of that and much more is to be expected from the daily consummation of avocados, according to a 2015 study (9). 

Avocados are highly nutritious and are abundant in B-complex vitamins such as vitamin B5, vitamin B6, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and niacin (vitamin B3). A growing body of evidence confirms that vitamins from B-complex have the potential to alleviate stress and improve mood. Additionally, avocados are a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids which are also important for stress management. Now you have yet another reason to eat avocados, besides making guacamole. 

  • Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries – you name it, they are here to help you. Choose from the wide variety of berries and add them to your daily diet – whether as a snack or an addition to your Greek yogurt for breakfast, the choice is yours. 

Everyone loves strawberries. What’s there not to like? Their vibrant red color and cute shape make them so appealing and it’s needless to mention the strawberries are incredibly delicious. Well, this popular fruit can help you manage stress in a natural way. They are abundant in vitamin C which can improve the way your body deals with stress. Not only does vitamin C strengthen your immune system and exhibit antioxidant effects, but it can also help you tackle stressful situations with greater success.

Much like dark chocolate and nuts, berries are also rich in antioxidants or one specific antioxidant to be more precise – Vitamin C. Packed with Vitamin C, berries are ought to help you get through a stressful situation, as science has suggested. This well-known antioxidant has proven helpful in relieving the symptoms of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and improving the mood in humans (10). And while you can always use a Vitamin C supplement, it is always a better idea to rely on Mother Nature for help instead. 

  • Eggs

Eggs are the perfect breakfast food, but they are also delicious at any time of the day. Eating a hard-boiled egg as a snack is the perfect healthy snack under 100 calories. Several nutrients are to be found in eggs, especially in the egg yolks. They are an excellent source of Vitamin D, protein, and an amino acid called tryptophan. 

Tryptophan is an amino acid that has a vital role in the production of serotonin – the feel-good neurotransmitter. It is included in the regulation of several functions – sleep, mood, memory, behavior, and it has even been proven helpful in improving brain function and relieving anxiety and stress (11). So you better make some time in the morning to prepare yourself a high-protein breakfast like eggs and start your day right.

  • Turmeric

A spice commonly used in the Indian and South-East Asian cuisine is turmeric. For centuries now, turmeric has been used not only for its amazing taste but also for its medicinal properties. Not to come as a surprise, but turmeric has also been shown helpful in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and stress.

It is all thanks to its active compound – curcumin. A 2015 study showed that curcumin has successfully reduced anxiety in obese individuals (12). Yet another study has found turmeric effective in increasing DHA and reducing the high-stress levels. And the best thing about it is that it is easy to implement in the daily diet (13). Simply add it to soups, stews, and even smoothies and feel like your body and mind both relax. 

  • Fatty fish

We cannot get enough of those helpful Omega-3 fatty acids! And so, we are bringing you yet another great source of Omega-3s, and that is all kinds of fatty fish. Whether it is salmon, mackerel, sardines, or trout, all of them can help you lower your stress levels and relax by offering you a generous amount of Omega-3s. A 2014 study, for example, showed that men who ate salmon three times a week had reported an improvement in their anxiety symptoms (14). Salmon is a rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for our health and wellbeing. Studies confirm that regular intake of Omega-3s can aid stress management through the blunted expression of cortisol, epinephrine, and energy expenditure. Reduced intake of Omega-3 fatty acids can promote stress. Therefore, a delicious way to turn off stress hormones and feel better is to up the Omega-3s intake, and salmon along with other fatty fish is always a good choice.

And while you may not be interested in eating fatty fish three times a week, make an effort to include it at least once a week and rely on the other Omega-3 sources that we mentioned before. 

  • Warm milk

Remember when we would get sent to bed at night with a tall glass of warm milk as children? And how whenever we would have trouble sleeping, our parents would once again refer to warm milk for help? The reason for that is that warm milk has a rather relaxing effect on our bodies. 

While the calcium found in milk may be helpful to strengthen our bones, it is also able to help relax us and even fight depression and anxiety, according to a study published in the Journal Nutrition Research and Practice (15). The study showed that a diet low in calcium had been associated with depression, whereas a calcium-rich diet has been able to reverse those symptoms and lower the stress levels in the body, which is just the effect that we are looking for.

  • Potatoes 

There is a reason that would explain why French fries are one of our most beloved comfort foods, right next to chocolate. Potatoes are an incredible source of fiber and, most importantly – Vitamin C. If you remember, we already discussed the importance of Vitamin C in the battle against mood disorders and stress. So, it is no wonder why potatoes are capable of soothing our stress so successfully. However, instead of choosing French fries, try to prepare some good old spicy baked potatoes at home. That way, you can practice portion control and limit your calorie intake to prevent feeling overwhelmed by your dietary choices.

  • Yogurt

And last but not least important, we have yogurt. Some good old yogurt is a great source of probiotics. Probiotics are the bacteria that are good for you or to be more specific – your gut. There are multiple reasons as to why you should make an effort to include more probiotics to your daily diet. Probiotics have been proven effective in boosting the immune system, protecting the gut against harmful bacteria, but also at relieving the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress (16). Kefir, which is fermented yogurt, is a great example of probiotics-rich food that you should not miss out on.

  • Chamomile 

For centuries chamomile tea was used to achieve calmness. Many people drink chamomile tea before they go to sleep and you may want to do it as well. A warm cup of this tea can help alleviate stress and even improve the management of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Studies show chamomile could normalize cortisol levels (17), which could be the reason why this plant is associated with relaxing and calm effects. Besides stress management, chamomile is also associated with other health benefits including treating various ailments, common cold, menstrual cramps (18), just to name a few.

  • Yogurt and kefir

Yogurt and kefir are abundant in probiotics, healthy bacteria necessary for proper gut microbiota balance. A great deal of your mental and physical health resides in the gut which is exactly why you need to take care of the digestive system in order to tackle stress and other mental health problems more effectively. Studies reveal that the absence of good bacteria in the gut makes us more prone to stress, anxiety, depression, and other problems. On the other hand, probiotics can block the harmful effects of stress and even make us immune to it (19).

  • Green or black tea

Green and black tea are widely consumed across the globe and their popularity has a lot to do with the outstanding health potential. For example, green tea is considered one of the healthiest beverages in the world and it can help with a wide range of problems from weight-related struggles to brain function. Green tea also proves to be effective for stress management (20). Besides green tea, black tea can soothe stress too. A daily cup of black tea can help you recover from everyday stresses more effectively (21).

Other foods to combat stress

Diet is crucial for stress management and balance of stress hormones. Simple tweaks in things you eat on a daily basis can have a huge difference in the way your body handles stress. Besides the above-mentioned foods, other items that can help turn off stress hormones include:

  • Bananas
  • Pears
  • Citrus fruits
  • Holy basil
  • Dried apricots
  • Asparagus
  • Garlic
  • Broccoli
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Whole grains

Conclusion

A lot of people think of food as a bad coping mechanism during stressful situations. But the truth is that not all food is that bad. In fact, certain foods are bound to improve your mood and reduce your cortisol levels quite efficiently if you allow them to. Today we have offered you a list of 10 delicious and nutrient-packed foods that will give their 100% to keep your stress levels as low as possible. All that you have to do is include them as much as possible in your daily diet and reach out for these better comfort food options such as nuts and dark chocolate whenever you feel as the stress keeps building up.

References

  1. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10571-010-9606-9
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579396/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5137920/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5843960/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4013452/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19810704
  7. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070430155822.htm
  8. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/5/429
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4540034/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26353411
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22717170
  12. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11655-015-2160-z
  13. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0925443914003779
  14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25431880
  15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23346303
  16. https://universityhealthnews.com/depression/best-probiotics-for-mood-enhancing-the-gut-brain-connection-with-psychobiotics/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29080520
  18. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050104112140.htm
  19. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322089
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28566632
  21. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061004173749.htm

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