5 Foods That Naturally Help Relieve Stress

Posted By on February 15, 2023

As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” While most people use this phrase as diet motivation or a way to steer clear of junk food, it can also be associated with how our diets affect stress management

Think about the last time you felt stressed or upset. Was it tempting to reach for a sugary treat? Did you think about stopping by your favorite fast-food restaurant, hoping it will help you feel better? Our bodies naturally crave comfort foods or sweets during times of turmoil. The mental association between difficult times and our favorite foods is almost like a reward for ourselves. 

However, unhealthy eating during times of stress can actually make us feel worse – rather than lifting our spirits, sugary sweets or fattening snacks can leave us fatigued and grumpier than before. 

HarborChase Senior Living promotes a culture of healthy aging and wellness. Our exquisite dining experiences throughout our assisted living communities utilize fresh ingredients to create culinary masterpieces with health as a priority. 

Here are five of our favorite foods that can naturally assist with stress management.

1. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are an incredibly versatile food. Whether you prepare them as a savory dish or a sweet side, you can cook them in many ways. Sweet potatoes are also rich in complex carbohydrates that produce serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that acts as a mood stabilizer and aids with feelings of reward and happiness. 

Compounds found in sweet potatoes can also help lower cortisol levels, a steroid hormone that essentially acts as an alarm system for your body, which is a huge part of stress management in the brain. 

2. Spinach

Leafy greens like spinach are packed with magnesium, a mineral associated with lowering feelings of anxiety, and vitamin C. Scientists have found evidence that vitamin C deficiencies are a common cause of stress. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t naturally produce vitamin C,  so it is important to incorporate it into our diets naturally. 

Other benefits of spinach include folate (also known as vitamin B9), which stimulates the production of dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical that helps our brain cells communicate with each other and is responsible for helping us feel pleasure, happiness, and motivation.  

3. Yellow Bell Peppers

While oranges are known as the go-to food for vitamin C, yellow bell peppers contain almost twice as much vitamin C as an orange – and with half the sugar. In fact, one medium-sized yellow bell pepper has 169% of the Reference Daily Intake of vitamin C. This makes yellow bell peppers a wonderful ingredient to use in a dish or even as a quick snack. In addition, raw bell peppers are made up of about 90% water, making this veggie the perfect, healthy grab-and-go option. 

4. Eggs

Whether you like them over easy or scrambled, eggs benefit your brain and your nervous system. Think about the last time you felt stressed: you probably were fatigued and overwhelmed and maybe even a bit irritable or angry. 

Egg yolk contains 20% of tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for the production of serotonin. The next time you’re feeling stressed, a serving of eggs can help you release serotonin chemicals to the nerve cells in the brain, which will leave you feeling calmer and relaxed. 

 5. Broccoli

While you might have hated broccoli as a kid, this cruciferous vegetable can be delicious in so many dishes. It’s full of beneficial vitamins, the most notable being vitamin C. Broccoli actually outranks oranges by two to one when it comes to vitamin C. Just 100 grams of cooked broccoli has twice the amount as 100 grams of orange. Broccoli also contains a significant amount of magnesium, and a shortage of magnesium in the body can make us more susceptible to stress. 

There are many stress management strategies, from meditation to exercise, but it’s important to understand that, like any other health problem, diet plays a crucial role. At HarborChase Senior Living, our assisted living communities allow residents to lead their healthiest lives yet. Through enriching programs and nutrient-dense culinary options, every day at HarborChase is worth celebrating. Find a HarborChase community near you to learn more.