Healthy Eating

Foods to Fight Stress

Vacations have come to an end. The kids are back to school. The lazy, hazy days of summer are over. You're ready for mother's little helper. But don't succumb to temptation. Nor should you gobble down nutrition-less bowls of rubbery mac and cheese or your fave guilty pleasure from the drive thru. Ben & Jerry's? Nope!

Instead know this: your diet can help ease stress and bolster your immune system. Here are our top picks for keeping adrenaline at bay and inducing calm.

Whole-grain breakfast cereal  

What's in it: B vitamins, magnesium, carbohydrate
Why: Carbohydrates are the food equivalent of a comfort blanket. Research published in the journal Appetite, revealed that when people prone to stress are fed a high-carb diet then put in a stressful situation, they show more personal control.
How much to eat: A bowl of cereal in the morning, or a calcium-rish granola bar mid-afternoon, should do the trick.

Sunflower seeds
What's in it: B vitamins, magnesium, protein, vitamin E
Why: Magnesium is nature's stress fighter and mood regulator. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and B vitamin needs are increased by stress.
How much to eat: One tablespoon will give you 20% of the RDA for magnesium and 60% RDA for vitamin E. Other good sources of magnesium include green veggies, nuts, fish, wholegrain and pulses.

What's in it: Vitamin B5, vitamin E, potassium
Why: Vitamin B5 does the body good by making stress hormones in the adrenal glands; Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and lots of healthy fats.
How much to eat: Half an avocado will give you about 5% RDA for Vitamin B5. Other good sources include all types of nuts, liver, sesame seeds, meat, oranges, eggs and dried apricots. You'll also get 20% of your daily need for vitamin E.

What's in it: Antioxidants--vitamin C and E, carotenoids, flavonoids.
Why: Stress increases the production of free radical that destroy your healthy cells. Antioxidants fight the radicals which, if left unchecked, increase our risk of problems such as heart disease, cateracts, cancers and lung disease.
How much to eat: Aim to eat a portion (3 1/2 oz) of a dark, leafy vegetable every day.

Strawberries and kiwi fruit
What's in it: Vitamin C, flavonoids.
Why: Simply put, stress kills Vitamin C, which is needed to make thyroid hormones, which in turn control the metabolism--which speeds up under extreme stress. (Vicious cycle or what?!) VItamin C and flavonoids are also antioxidants.
How much to eat: Make sure you have a couple of vitamin C-rich foods (or juices) daily, such as berries, kiwi fruit, peppers, citrus fruit, green vegetables and tropical fruit.

Dark chocolate
What's in it: Magnesium, copper, flavonoids.
Why: Magnesium is needed to make stress hormones and the antioxidants copper and flavonoids (look for high cocoa content) help to counteract those pesky free radicals.
How much to eat: A small piece goes a long way--1 oz a day is perfect.

Other things you can do to fight stress?  Keep alcohol and caffeine intake to a minimum... Exercise regularly and make time for relaxation at the end of each day... Share your worries...

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Hannah Litman