Life is stressful. Whether it’s work, school, family or the seemingly increasing number of weddings you’re getting invited to, it’s hard to juggle everything without an occasional stress-eating episode. (Binging on potato chips or cookies sound familiar to you?) That said, the key to feeling better might just be at the end of your fork. Next time you get frustrated with the demands of the day, reach for one of these five natural stress-relievers.
1. Dark Chocolate
It’s hard to be sad when you’re eating chocolate.
Dark chocolate gets the health crown of all desserts because it’s packed with antioxidants. These antioxidants (called flavonoids) have tons of functions, one of which is to boost your mood. Dark chocolate is also one of the food sources of serotonin, the feel-good hormone.
Tip: Choose at least 70% cacao to get the most health benefits.
Like chocolate, avocado makes everything better. This creamy fruit of goodness has a two-pronged approach to beating stressful moments.
When you get stressed, your blood pressure may start to rise. Avocado is a good source of potassium, which helps keep your blood pressure where it needs to be.
Avocado is also a good source of folate, a vitamin that plays a huge role in mood function. Folate is necessary for your body to make serotonin — low levels of folate have been associated with depression.
Try our recipe for Avocado Pesto-Stuffed Portobello Caps.
3. Granola (or Other Carbs)
Eating something high in carbs will prompt your brain to start making serotonin. Consider the pleasant mood you find yourself in right after eating a big bowl of pasta.
The key is to pick complex carbs (like whole grains), instead of simple carbs (like soda or white rice). Simple carbs cause quick blood sugar spikes and drops, which might leave you feeling more down than before.
Any complex carb will work. If granola isn’t your thing, try some whole wheat pasta, bread, farro or quinoa.
Bonus: The crunch from the granola might also help you get some stress out (although we don’t have anything scientific to back this up).
Try our recipe for homemade granola.
Nuts are a good source of magnesium, which has an important relationship to stress. High levels of stress can deplete magnesium levels. In turn, having low levels of magnesium can cause headaches. Getting stressed out and having a pounding headache? No fun.
Choose nuts like almonds, cashews or hazelnuts for magnesium-rich snacking.
Try our recipe for Cherries with Ricotta & Toasted Almonds.
The omega-3 fats in salmon help curb cortisol levels. Cortisol, a hormone that’s released during stress, is usually linked to having high levels of inflammation in the body. Omega-3s are healthy fats that are anti-inflammatory and can help stop the surge of cortisol during stressful times.
Try our recipe for Grilled Salmon with Tomatoes and Basil.
This blog was originally published on July 22, 2014. It was last updated on September 22, 2016.