The Fit Life in Words
Tips on Nutrition, Workouts, and more. Because you can always improve.
When most of us hear the word "stress", our minds automatically travel to ideas of worry caused from work, anxiety, or any other life problems. We neglect to realize that even exercise is considered stress on our bodies. It's physical stress. The definition of stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. So, while we're busy trying to stay calm in stressful situations in our lives, we also have to combat the physical stress we put on our bodies when we exercise in the effort to stay healthy and fit. Here are 13 foods you can strategically work into your daily diet in order to keep yourself cool, calm, and relaxed.
Yes, they make your urine smell terrible. But they are high in folate, which is essential for keeping your cool. Folate is a calming B-complex vitamin known to reduce feelings of stress and produce dopamine for the brain. Raw or cooked, they're great for you.
Yum, yum, and yum. They are rich in glutathione, a substance that specifically blocks intestinal absorption of certain fats that cause oxidative damage. Avocados also contain lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and more folate than any other fruit. A single serving has plenty of B vitamins too. Potassium is another component to this fruit which lowers blood pressure. Half an avocado has more potassium than a medium-sized banana.
Blueberries have some of the highest levels of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin, and they've been linked to all kinds of positive health outcomes, including sharper cognition. But do you know what berry has MORE anthocyanins? That's right, bilberries. These berries are very hard to come by in the US and it'd be very expensive to get them shipped to you so look for extracts in supplements. But all berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress.
A tasty and simple snack for on the go. Because they're crunchy and a little salty, they cure cravings. Because of the protein and fat content, they're also very filling. For the same reason, make sure to measure out the correct portion size! Cashews are an especially good source of zinc. A 1-ounce serving has 11% of your RDA. Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc, it's important to get some every day. Almonds and walnuts also contain zinc!
5. Chamomile tea
You probably already knew about this one since it's one of the most recommended bedtime soothers out there. Studies has shown that chamomile led to a significant drop in anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder. In addition to calming nerves, chamomile promotes sleep.
6. Dark chocolate
Let's not get carried away now. I'm sure most of us have polished off a bag of something chocolatey after a stressful day. But in moderation, chocolate actually does make you feel better. Dark chocolate specifically has been known to lower blood pressure. It contains more polyphenols and flavonols (2 important antioxidants) than some fruit juices. One serving a week is reasonable and won't knock your fitness goals off track.
Garlic is jam-packed with powerful antioxidants. Among the compounds in garlic is allicin, which has been linked to fending off heart disease, cancer, and even the common cold. Because stress weakens our immune system, we need friends like garlic, which can toughen it back up. Saute it in broth instead of oil to keep it healthy enough to add liberally to meals.
8. Grass-fed beef
It has more antioxidants (including vitamins C and E and beta-carotene) than grain-fed beef, and doesn't have added hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs. And while it's lower in fat overall, it'a about 2-4 times higher in omega-3s. A study showed that people who ate grass-fed meat increased their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and decreased their levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. It's pricey, but well worth it.
A complex carbohydrate, oatmeal causes your brain to produce serotonin, a feel-good chemical. Not only does serotonin have antioxidant properties, it also creates a soothing feeling that helps overcome stress. Studies have shown that kids who eat oatmeal for breakfast stay sharper throughout the morning. Beta-glucan, the type of soluble fiber found in oatmeal, has been shown to promote greater satiety scores than other whole grains.
Oranges are a vitamin C powerhouse. Another benefit? They're easy to take on the go. To reiterate, vitamin C helps boost your immunity and is also an antioxidant which fights free radicals. Stress tends to increase free radical load on the body.
These aren't as easy to take on the go as cashews or oranges, but they do pack a mean punch of zinc. Six oysters (the typical amount you'd get if you ordered at a restaurant) have 150% of your zinc RDA.
12. Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy greens contain high levels of magnesium, a critical mineral for managing stress. Stress depletes your body of magnesium, and this can lead to headaches, anxiety, and restlessness. Feeling stressed? Cook up some spinach, kale, or collard greens! Spinach, in particular, is high in A, B, and C vitamins as well as calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. All things that help reduce stress hormones.
13. Sunflower seeds
They are packed with tryptophan, the amino acid used by the brain to make the feel-good hormone serotonin. They've also got magnesium, which helps ease anxiety and promote feelings of calm. Another easy snack to take with you on the go!