10 Superfoods That Erase Stress

Written by Alex Reid
Posted September 17, 2018 at 4:53PM

10 Superfoods that Erase Stress

Stress is an unfortunate part of our modern lives. According to a recent Gallup poll, four out of five of all Americans are stressed out. And 40% those stressed individuals report overeating or eating unhealthy foods when they are stressed.1

Unfortunately, that big bowl of chocolate ice cream or candy, bad for you even on a good day, becomes even more damaging to your health when you’re stressed.

A study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology (I know that’s a mouthful) studied a group of chronically stressed women.

They found that the combination of stress and a high-sugar/high-fat diet led to increased insulin resistance, higher levels of oxidative damage, a wider waistline, and more abdominal fat than diet alone.2

In other words, the food’s negative health effects were magnified because of the high stress levels in the women’s bodies. The other group of women in the study who were low-stress and ate the same foods did not experience nearly the same severe negative effects.

According to the study’s lead author, Kirstin Aschbacher, PhD:

Many people think a calorie is a calorie, but this study suggests that two women who eat the same thing could have different metabolic responses based on their level of stress.

But the damage doesn’t stop there.

While junk foods may make you feel good for a moment or two, after the initial pleasure wears off, you’ll start to feel the effects of the sugar, trans fats, artificial colors, and all the other synthetic ingredients in the food— effects like:

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Low energy
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Diarrhea
  • Disrupted sleep patterns

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are healthy foods that actually work on a biochemical level within your body to alleviate the symptoms of stress.

What’s more, these delicious and natural alternatives can increase your positivity and relieve tension, so you’ll never suffer from the effects of stress in the first place.

By the end of this article, you’ll know EXACTLY which foods to eat when you’re stressed... and which ones to avoid.

10 Best Foods to Wipe Away Stress and Leave You Feeling Happy and Relaxed

1. Leafy Green Vegetables

Green Leafy Vegetables

Dark, leafy green vegetables are one of the best types of foods you can add to your diet.

That’s because they’re rich in folate, a special type of B vitamin that your body converts into mood-regulating neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. A Finnish study from 2012 found that people who consumed a folate-rich diet enjoyed a lower risk of depression.3

Multiple other studies have confirmed the link between low folate consumption and depressive symptoms.4,5,6 Researchers have even found links between people’s genetic predisposition to metabolize folate and their risk for depression.

More studies need to be completed before we can be certain, but it seems that a faulty MTHFD1L rs11754661 A allele may decrease one’s ability to utilize folate. In turn, the nutrient deficiency can lead to depression.7

2. Organic Turkey Breast

Organic Turkey Breast

Turkey is an excellent source of tryptophan, an amino acid your body uses to make serotonin. Tryptophan can reduce the cortisol response during stressful situations and help you stay relaxed and more even-keeled.8

Other sources of tryptophan are nuts, pumpkin seeds, and free-range organic eggs.

3. Fermented Foods

Fermented Foods

Your gut might as well be your second brain. An explosion of research is highlighting the interconnected relationship between your gut and your brain, referred to as the gut-brain axis.9

Turns out your gut health can dramatically influence your brain health. Probiotics have shown an amazing ability to reduce stress/anxiety and depression in rodent studies.10,11,12,13 The beneficial gut flora transmit neurotransmitter-regulating signals directly from your gut to your brain via the vagus nerve, which runs from your digestive system to your brain.

For example, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus was found to dramatically increase gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) levels in multiple regions of the brain.14 GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. In other words, it helps our brains slow down and relax.15 So, by increasing GABA concentrations in your brain, the healthy bacteria helps you de-stress and relax.

Fermented milk products like kefir or Greek yogurt are excellent ways to add beneficial Lactobacillus strains into your body. And regular consumption of these products can have big effects on your health in a short amount of time.

A study published in the journal Gastroenterology found that women who regularly ate yogurt that contained healthy bacteria had higher interbrain connectivity.16 This, in turn, helped regulate their emotional response and help them deal with stress.

Other fermented foods you can try are kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and pickles.

4. Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon

Alaskan Salmon

Salmon is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to slash anxiety symptoms by as much as 20%.17,18 That’s because the two types of omega 3s in salmon — EPA and DHA — block the secretion of interleukin-1β, which is a cytokine protein associated with inflammatory illnesses and stress.19 Interleukin-1β interferes with GABA production in your brain.20,21

GABA, if you recall from above, has powerful stress-moderating effects. So it’s important to do everything you can to decrease your interleukin-1β levels. Wild-caught salmon is much richer in omega 3s than farm-raised salmon and is less contaminated with chemicals.

Other sources of omega 3s are sardines, anchovies, and krill oil, as well as fish oil supplements. But before you buy any fish-derived supplement product, make sure it’s been tested for purity and contamination. Good fish oil will be certified impurity and radiation free.

5. Blueberries

Blueberries

Anthocyanins are the pigments that make raspberries red, blackberries black, and, of course, blueberries blue. But that’s not all they do. Anthocyanins are also powerful antioxidants and help your brain produce dopamine. Dopamine is your body’s “feel-good” molecule, and it’s critical for mood, stress management, memory, and coordination... which explains why dopamine disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s lead to impaired coordination and a hampered memory, respectively.

What’s more, chronic stress damages your dopamine receptors, making you more vulnerable to neurodegenerative disease.22 Anthocyanins, however, have been shown to nourish certain “dopamine bodyguard” compounds that protect your dopamine receptors from damage.

One study found that anthocyanins could increase the levels of these bodyguard compounds by 66% in just four weeks!23 And blueberries have one of the highest levels of anthocyanins out of any food on the planet. Which means you can use them to increase your dopamine levels naturally and then protect your receptors from getting damaged — all at the same time.

6. Red Peppers

Red Peppers

Most people don’t know this, but red peppers actually have twice the amount of vitamin C as oranges. And vitamin C is a potent stress reliever. One study found that high school students who supplemented with 500mg of vitamin C for just two weeks were able to slash their stress levels by 25%!24

Another study conducted by German researchers found that not only was 1,000mg of vitamin C able to reduce stress and cortisol levels, but it also helped keep blood pressure in check.25 Again, just like in the study with high school students, it only took two weeks of vitamin C intake to notice these effects.

Ultramarathon runners put their bodies through some of the most intense stress of anyone on the planet. As a result, their blood is often filled with inflammatory compounds, especially post race. But when those runners supplemented with vitamin C, they were able to reduce the amount of stress compounds circulating in their blood by 57%.26

But warning: Red peppers are one of the “dirty dozen” of the most pesticide-laden vegetables. So if you choose to eat them, which you should, make sure you only buy organic.

7. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is good for you. But we’re not talking about the chocolate you’ll find in the candy aisles of convenience stores. For chocolate to be healthy, it has to be dark — somewhere between 70% and 88% cocoa. Anything less than that and you’ll mainly be eating sugar, and you won’t get enough cocoa to notice any effect.

Dark chocolate has long been considered a “feel-good” food, and there are a few very good biochemical reasons for that. For one, chocolate contains theobromine, a cousin to caffeine that acts as a powerful relaxant instead of a stimulant.27

Another one of the 300 compounds present in chocolate is anandamide, named after “ananda,” the Sanskrit word for bliss, joy, or happiness. It’s actually an endocannabinoid that binds to the cannabinoid receptors in your brain (THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, also binds to these receptors).

Like many other cannabinoids, anandamide fuels neurogenesis — the formation of new neurons — which “overwrites” the effects of stress.28 Basically, cortisol fries your neurons and the axons that connect them.29 But anandamide comes to the rescue; it swoops in and starts rebuilding the infrastructure of your brain.  

Additionally, in one Italian study from 2008, the inflammatory compounds released by high stress levels, most notably c-reactive protein (CRP), were noted to be 15% lower in those who ate dark chocolate versus those who did not.30

Keep in mind, however, that this isn’t a free pass to eat as much chocolate as you want. Even the darkest chocolate has some sugar, of which you should try to limit your intake as much as possible. Not only that, but chocolate is also extremely calorie dense, which means it could interfere with your weight-loss goals.

So, how much should you consume? If we use the above Italian study as a benchmark, about 6.7 grams per day seems to be all you need to enjoy chocolate’s beneficial effects. That breaks down to about half a bar per week.

8. Cashews

Cashews

As a science, nutrition is very much in its infancy. New breakthroughs are being made every day, especially in the field of nutritional psychiatry, which studies the effects of how vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can modulate psychiatric disorders.

Zinc in particular seems to be at the center of stress and anxiety. In one study, researchers looked at a group of subjects with diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). They found that the study participants had low levels of zinc AND higher than normal levels of copper in their bodies.

The skewed zinc:copper ratio appeared to play some part in the patients’ anxiety. Especially since, after supplementing with zinc, the anxiety levels of the study participants dropped by 31%.31

Yet another study found that zinc was able to limit cortisol secretion.32 Best of all, the stress-lowering effects kicked in after just four hours. So, if you normalize your zinc levels, you may be able to notice positive effects on your anxiety levels pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, the standard American diet (SAD) is woefully deficient in zinc. That’s because the majority of most Americans’ calories come from processed and refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, cereals, corn, and rice. All of these foods contain a compound called phytate, which interrupts zinc absorption.33

To avoid this, always make sure to avoid junk food, prepackaged meals, and any other type of snack food, all of which contain processed grains to some extent. Replace those refined carbohydrates with sprouted grains and complex carbohydrates.

And add zinc-rich foods like cashews to your diet. Cashews provide 11% of the daily recommended intake of zinc and can help correct any zinc deficiencies you may have. Not only that, but cashews also come packed with omega 3s and protein, making them one of the healthiest snacks you can add to your diet.

9. Seeds

Seeds

Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds — whatever type of seed you can find, eat it. Seeds are rich sources of magnesium, which the Western diet is woefully deficient in.34,35,36 Low magnesium intake has been correlated with everything from heart disease to type II diabetes to hypertension, so it’s important that you make sure your levels are adequate.37,38,39

Magnesium has also shown tremendous promise as a stress and anxiety reliever. In one study, magnesium coupled with vitamin B6 was shown to be just as effective as a prescription anxiety medication.40

So how many seeds do you need to get the benefits of magnesium? Most of the studies on magnesium have used doses of 75mg–300mg.41,42 So, one or two handfuls of any seed you choose should be enough to get your clinically active dose of magnesium.

10. Vitamin D

Sunshine

OK, it’s true. Vitamin D isn’t technically a food. However, it’s so important to managing stress levels that I would feel guilty if I didn’t mention it here. For one, vitamin D alleviates depression, which often goes hand in hand with high levels of stress and anxiety.43 What’s more, vitamin D has been shown to reduce the number of stress biomarkers circulating in the blood, like c-reactive protein and triglycerides.44

And in breast cancer survivors, higher levels of vitamin D led to lower levels of stress, depression, and fatigue.45 Yet another study, this one from Korea, found that women who had low vitamin D were 2.7 times more likely to feel stressed.46

The best way to get vitamin D is from sunshine. 20–25 minutes of uninterrupted sun exposure every day will stimulate your body to produce all the vitamin D it needs.

However, there are two important things to keep in mind. One, you need to expose 70–75% of your body to the sun to reap the benefits. That means making sure the sunshine is hitting your exposed back, chest, or legs. Wearing a t-shirt and pants or shorts won’t expose enough surface area of your skin to the sun, and less vitamin D will be produced.

Another thing to keep in mind is that “uninterrupted” means uninterrupted. Sunscreen use has been implicated as one of the main reasons why 75% of all Americans are vitamin D deficient.47,48 Of course, always use your own discretion when deciding how long you can remain in the sun without getting burnt.

If you live in northern latitudes or just don’t have the ability to get adequate sun exposure, you can supplement with high-quality vitamin D3 capsules between 1,000 and 5,000 IU, depending on how deficient you are.

Wrap Up

  • Stress is a modern-day epidemic that affects 80% of Americans.
  • Micronutrients such as zinc, vitamin C, omega 3s, vitamin D, plant-based anthocyanins, and magnesium have all shown stress-reducing effects.
  • To make sure you get all those nutrients in your diet, eat green leafy vegetables, turkey breast, fermented foods, wild-caught salmon, blueberries, red peppers, dark chocolate, cashews, and seeds.
  • Enjoy 20–25 minutes of sunshine every day or supplement with vitamin D.

To your health,

Alex Reid
President, Clear Health Now

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