Stress can lead to snacking — which is OK, but only if you choose the right nosh. “Some nutrients can enhance mood, while fatty comfort foods can physically bring you down because they're harder to digest,” says Marisa Moore, RDN, a nutritionist in Atlanta, GA, and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Choose these four foods instead to create calm from the inside out.
- Avocados. This fruit is an excellent source of vitamin B6 and folic acid, both of which have been shown to reduce stress by helping to maintain proper nervous system functioning. Avocados also provide a heart-healthy serving of potassium (one avocado has 975 milligrams, while a banana has only 422 milligrams), which helps regulate blood pressure. Add a few slices to your salad or mix up a bowl of guacamole.
- Salmon. This fish is high in omega-3 fatty acids — a natural mood booster, according to studies. Additionally, omega-3s help protect your ticker, which is important when damaging cortisol levels are soaring. Cortisol is known as the stress hormone because it’s released when you feel under pressure, and if levels remain high, it can wreak havoc on your system. Enjoy a fillet for lunch or dinner.
- Broccoli. One cup of cooked broccoli contains twice as much vitamin C — which helps control blood pressure and cortisol levels — as a medium orange. Vitamin C also strengthens the immune system, which can be weakened by stress (making you more susceptible to the coming season’s colds). Mix some broccoli into a morning omelet or dip it into hummus for an afternoon snack.
- Almonds. One serving of this nut contains 20 percent of your daily recommended value of magnesium, a mineral that also helps manage cortisol levels. Studies have shown that magnesium has a calming effect on the nervous system and may promote better sleep as well. Keep a stash of almonds close by (a one-ounce serving is the size of a shot glass).