Negative emotions, such as stress, anxiety, and depression, can have an impact on one’s mental health. While therapy and meditation can be beneficial in managing these feelings, incorporating certain foods into your diet can also help reduce stress, provide more energy, and improve your overall health. Here are best stress-relieving foods recommended to support your mental health and ease stress.
1. Chrysanthemum tea
Ancient cultures have consistently associated chrysanthemums with sun, brightness, and happiness, indicating its ability to generate uplifting effects. For thousands of years, chamomile has been valued for its calming and comforting properties.
Chamomile contains anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce anxiety and stress in the body. A 2009 clinical trial showed that German chamomile, Matricaria Recutitareduced symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder compared with placebo control.
If you’re looking for a simple way to relieve stress, try brewing a cup of chamomile tea in the evening while you practice mindful reading. The properties of the herb will help you relax and rest.
Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that your body needs to function properly. Two important omega-3 fatty acids are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). EPA and DHA are both found in salmon and have been shown to be helpful in fighting depression.
A 3-ounce serving of salmon contains about 1,240 mg of DHA and 590 mg of EPA, making it an excellent source of essential omega-3 fatty acids. A 2011 randomized controlled trial found that both DHA and EPA were able to reduce anxiety symptoms by 20% when participating.
Aim to eat 3 to 4 ounces of salmon several times per week. This can help you keep your mind clear, improve your mood, and reduce your daily stress levels.
3. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a fascinating food that comes from Spanish Salvia, a desert plant found in Central America. Chia seeds are a great stress reliever, as they are packed with omega-3s, antioxidants, protein, and fiber.
One ounce of chia seeds contains about 5,060 mg of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), another essential omega-3 fatty acid that may help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
A 2020 review found that people who regularly ate high-fiber foods showed a reduced risk of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Since chia seeds contain about 10 grams of fiber per ounce, this makes them a great choice for a daily source of fiber.
To incorporate chia seeds into your diet, try mixing them with oatmeal or smoothies. Also, try making chia seed pudding that can match any taste. Watch the video below for some cool recipe options.
The turmeric root of the long turmeric plant is the source of the spice commonly used in dishes from Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. It is also a main component in the beloved “golden milk” drink.
Curcumin is one of the main components of turmeric and is believed to help reduce stress and anxiety. Curcumin increases DHA levels in the brain, which improves mental functions and processes.
A 2015 randomized controlled trial found that anxiety scores were reduced by just one gram of curcumin per day.
You can get curcumin by eating turmeric as a daily supplement or incorporating it into your weekly diet. Most sources suggest 2,000 mg of turmeric or less per day, which is about 1 teaspoon.
Many people find themselves humorously reaching for a chocolate bar when feeling stressed or overwhelmed, which may not be surprising given that chocolate is generally acknowledged as a great stress reliever.
Dark chocolate, which is about 70% or more of pure cocoa, contains antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. A 2017 article in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition suggested that these flavanols increase blood flow and have neuroprotective properties.
Like omega-3s, they can actually help you feel less stressed and more informed when making decisions for the day. To benefit from chocolate’s antioxidant properties for stress relief, choose the darkest chocolate you can tolerate. Aim for one small square of 1 to 1.5 ounces as a daily treat.
6. Green tea
Consuming green tea can be a great way to relieve stress while also improving brain health! It contains an amino acid known as L-theanine which has been shown to have beneficial effects for reducing anxiety, promoting mood stability, and bettering overall brain health.
A 2016 randomized, double-blind study found that people who consumed L-theanine experienced lower feelings of stress and reduced cortisol levels. The L-theanine found in green tea can also boost the production of dopamine, GABA, and serotonin, adding to its uplifting properties.
To get your daily dose of L-theanine, brew a cup of green tea in the morning to replace your usual morning latte. However, stay away from green tea in the evening as it contains as much caffeine as a cup of coffee.
Oats are a great food for improving the body’s digestive function and positively impacting the gut-brain connection. One cup of raw oats contains about 8 grams of fiber, which aids digestion and can help improve your mood.
Raw and shredded oats are best because they take longer to digest than quick-cooking varieties. This helps keep your energy levels and insulin production steady. Stabilized blood sugar often manifests as improved mood, less stress and irritability.
Try making healthy, high-energy treats with raw oats, nut butters, seeds, and sweeteners. You can also choose sweet or savory oatmeal with healthy toppings like berries and nuts.
Berries are a great addition to your daily diet for stress relief. Most berries contain high levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that have been linked to reduced cases of depression and anxiety.
A 2018 review found that phenolic compounds found in berries reduce oxidative stress, which may support mental health.
A separate 2018 study found that people who consumed more phenolic acids and anthocyanins, a pigment found in purple-blue berries, showed a reduced risk of depressive symptoms.
Increase your berry consumption by eating a variety of berries such as:
- Black berries
- Goji berries
Even though cherries are not actually classified as berries, they can be beneficial in relieving stress. Cherries are independently full of melatonin, a hormone found in human beings that manages sleep patterns. Adequate rest is essential for a healthy mental state, so incorporate cherries in your diet alongside assorted berries.
9. Hemp hearts
The hemp hearts are the part of the seed that comes from the Cannabis sativa, or hemp plant. Hemp hearts have a soft texture and nutty flavor and can be used as a topping on salads, toast or oatmeal.
Hemp heart are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for improving brain function and heart health. Three tablespoons of hemp fruit contain about 2,600 mg of the stress-relieving omega-3 ALA and 9.48 grams of protein.
Hemp hearts are an easy addition to your daily diet. Sprinkle hemp hearts on top of your nut butter toast or mix it into a bowl of savory or sweet oatmeal.
You can also sprinkle hemp fruit on top of a salad or even sprinkle them over a small bowl of berries as a fun side dish.
Eggs are a great food to relieve anxiety, stress and overwhelm. These nutritional powerhouses contain essential amino acids that help your body produce serotonin and dopamine, which are feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. A 2020 paper mentions that eating a moderate amount of eggs is associated with a reduced risk of depressive symptoms.
One egg contains Vitamins A, B5, B12, B2, B6, D, E, K, folate, phosphorus, selenium, calcium and zinc.
All of these nutrients work together to create a healthier brain and body, which can improve mental health and wellness. Aim to eat one or two eggs a day or so to give your brain useful nutrients.
Yogurt, along with other probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi and kefir, is great for reducing stress and mental anxiety. Probiotics work to improve your gut health, which affects your mood through the gut-brain axis.
A research conducted in 2013 discovered that individuals who ate nearly 8 ounces of yogurt daily experienced improved brain activity and emotional control after a period of four weeks.
To reduce stress levels, make sure that yogurt becomes a part of your diet either daily or weekly. Opt for yogurt with live active cultures to experience the most health benefits.
There’s a reason Popeye displayed superpowers after eating his spinach.
Spinach is a green leafy vegetable that can be eaten as part of a salad, added to smoothies, or wilted into a soup or side dish. It contains a variety of vitamins like A, C, and K, as well as minerals like folate, iron, potassium and magnesium that are good for your mind and body.
With regard to its stress-relieving properties, a 2018 study on rats concluded that spinach has anti-stress and anti-depressant properties. An article from Harvard Health relayed that the magnesium in spinach can also have a calming effect on one’s mood.
Try adding spinach to your diet by adding a few young spinach leaves to salad mixes or smoothies. You can also add spinach daily by adding green vegetables.
If you’re a coffee lover, you’ll be happy to know that this popular drink can relieve stress and lift your mood in the right doses. A 2018 randomized controlled trial and a 2021 report found that black coffee improved neurological function after consumption.
Coffee is a major source of caffeine. There are about 37 mg of caffeine in a teaspoon. A 2015 meta-analysis found that people who drank between 68 mg and 509 mg of coffee per day experienced an 8% reduction in depressive symptoms per cup.
While coffee can improve mood and reduce stress, drinking too much coffee can also cause problems. Restlessness and irritability are side effects of too much caffeine, so keep caffeine intake below 400 mg, which is equivalent to about four cups of black coffee.
Add stress-relieving foods to your diet for better mental health
Every day brings with it different sources of stress; however, you can alleviate some of that stress through your diet. Try consuming a few stress-relieving foods and keep an eye on how it affects your mood. Experiment with different foods to determine which ones help give you a sense of peacefulness.