Six foods proven to help reduce stress levels

·3-min read

With the fast pace of modern life, it's often easy to rely on snacks and coffee for an energy boost.

However, foods with high levels of sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed carbohydrates, as well as alcohol, caffeine, and smoking, can all affect stress levels, leading to increased oxidative stress of our cells, more mood swings, greater anxiety, and an overall stressed-out body and mind.

However, Elizabeth Stewart, registered associate nutritionist at Vitl (vitl.com), has recommended foods that can help reduce the strain and boost overall health.

Garlic

As well as being an excellent source of vitamin B6, garlic is packed full of vitamin C and other minerals, such as calcium, potassium, iron, and copper.

"However, it's actually the sulphur compounds found in garlic that help to increase levels of glutathione in the body - the antioxidant that helps form your body's first line of defence against oxidative stress," she shared.

Blueberries

When our bodies are suffering from the physical effects of stress, vitamin C is essential to help protect and repair our cells, and blueberries are jampacked with antioxidants.

"One study shows that vitamin C may help reduce the levels of stress hormones found in the blood, and also helps to keep the adrenal glands from becoming overly enlarged," noted Elizabeth.

Chickpeas

Rich in vitamin B6, chickpeas are great for helping to manufacture serotonin - a chemical that transmits messages between nerve cells that's believed to act as a mood stabiliser.

"Chickpeas provide both tryptophan and slow-burning carbs, which make a great combination for reducing stress. Chickpeas also contain a large amount of folate - a B vitamin that helps regulate mood," the expert explained.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is very rich in magnesium, with approximately 64mg in a 28g bar.

"When we're stressed, magnesium depletes quite dramatically, which can lead to fatigue, anxiety and even insomnia in some extreme cases," said Elizabeth. "In a 2014 study, researchers found that consuming 40g of dark chocolate over a two-week period was an effective way to reduce perceived stress in women."

Avocado

While avocado toast is often at the centre of jokes about millennials, there are plenty of good reasons to eat this nourishing fruit.

"Rich in B vitamins, particularly B5, avocados can help support normal functioning of the adrenal glands," the nutrition professional noted. "The fatty acids found in avocados are necessary to produce the hormones the adrenal glands are responsible for. After all, our brain is approximately 60 per cent fat!"

Greek yoghurt

A source of probiotics that look after the gut, Greek yoghurt helps it to function at its best.

"The gut requires a rich microflora of varied bacteria strains to help you process and digest the food you eat. This microflora can be affected by a number of things, including stress, illness, a lack of sleep and even anxiety," added Elizabeth. "The gut microbiome influences your body's reactions as it's linked to your brain through the vagus nerve; a long bundle of fibres that runs throughout your whole body that speak to your enteric nervous system."

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