7 Foods That Fight Stress

If your teenager seems extra frazzled lately, it might be time to take a look at what they’re putting in their body. Your diet doesn’t just affect your physical health—certain foods can actually alleviate stress (and let’s be honest, your teenager could probably use some stress relief).

According to WebMD, certain foods reduce stress by boosting serotonin levels—a mood-regulating chemical thought to increase feelings of well-being—while others reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels. These stress hormones can harm the body over time. A healthy diet is also important in strengthening your immune system and stabilizing blood pressure, enabling your body to better deal with stress.

Do away with the Poptarts, potato chips and ‘comfort foods’ in favor of some more beneficial and nutritional options that will make you feel happier in the long-run.

1. Oranges

Image Credit: Michael Stern

The smell of citrus in the air as someone peels an orange can improve moods all by itself, but the real power of this fruit is its wealth of vitamin C. Studies have shown that Vitamin C counteracts feelings of stress and physical reactions to stress, such as higher cortisol levels and a spike in blood pressure.

2. Fish

Don’t discount the benefits of a fish-friendly diet. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna house Omega-3 fatty acids which have been negatively linked to depression and can help control stress hormones. Omega-3s are also associated with some serious health benefits like lower risk of heart disease and possible Alzheimer’s prevention.

3. Leafy Greens

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Popeye had it right: spinach is the way to go. Leafy greens contain folate, a B Vitamin, which some studies have inversely linked to depression. Spinach is also a source of magnesium, too little of which can lead to headaches and fatigue, making a stressed out teen even more anxious.

4. Cashews

These tasty, bean-shaped nuts are chock full of zinc: one ounce contains 11 percent of the recommended daily allowance, in fact. A study in Biological Trace Element Research found that zinc intake was inversely related to depression; this mineral has also been associated with reduced anxiety. Pass the nuts, please.

5. Tea

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Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine which has been linked to stress reduction and shown to slow the heart rates of participants during a stressful task. Chamomile has a calming effect and a study out of the University of Pennsylvania showed that chamomile supplements eased anxiety symptoms in those suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Black tea has also been associated with feelings of calm and reduced cortisol levels. So, put the kettle on and pour yourself a cup!

6. Oatmeal

Please, sir, I want some more. Oatmeal is a great complex carbohydrate that produces serotonin in the brain, causing you to feel at-ease. Complex carbs take longer to digest than simple carbs, allowing you to bask in that feel-good feeling. When a stressful event occurs, blood sugar levels can spike, but a complex carb like oatmeal won’t cause levels to rise even more (like, say, a sugary treat).

7. Dark Chocolate

Image Credit: Chocolate Reviews

A healthy, stress-free diet doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a little sweetness. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and a study published in the Journal of Proteome Research linked daily consumption of dark chocolate (1.4 ounces) with reduced stress hormone levels in those who were already struggling with high anxiety. While it’s important to remember, everything in moderation, a bite of 70% cocoa dark chocolate might be just what the doctor ordered.

Try incorporating any (or all!) of these stress-fighting foods into your and your teen’s daily diets. Both nutritious and delicious, they’re sure to help you relax and unwind so that you can tackle anything that comes your way.

Feature Image: The Travelling Bum