Vegetables: During stress, body produces excess stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline and fewer neurotransmitters associated with relaxation and happiness, like dopamine and serotonin. Folic acid which occurs in high quantities in vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and asparagus is useful for the production of dopamine and serotonin in the body. Improving folic acid status can thereby help maintain the hormone levels.
Olive oil: Stress causes increase in the blood pressure hence olive oil is best to counteract its effect. A study found that having olive oil regularly can reduce blood pressure considerably. Olive oil has also been found to increase the production of serotonin, a hormone that produces a sense of happiness and wellbeing that helps combat stress.
Oats: Oats have complex carbohydrates that take time to digest; they cause satiety as stomach feels full and release several chemical substances, including serotonin. Serotonin apart from being a neuro transmitter also has anti-oxidant properties and at times of stress, body’s production of serotonin decreases. Carbohydrates help in transporting the precursors of serotonin in the brain. That explains why we feel the craving for carbohydrates during times of stress. Oats are a better way of satisfying those cravings without causing spike of blood sugar levels.
Salmon: Salmons are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They have anti-inflammatory properties that help in balancing the effect of stress hormones. Consumption of fatty fish like tuna and salmon will boost your mood. Omega-3 fatty acids make it easier for serotonin to pass through cell membranes. These fatty acids also decrease inflammation, often seen in chronic stress.
Berries: studies have shown that consumption of blue berries can cause an increase in natural killer cells, an innate defence mechanism of the body that helps in fighting stress. The antioxidants and phytonutrients found in berries help improve your body's response to stress and fight stress-related free radicals. Blueberries have the highest levels of an anti-oxidant called anthocyanin. But all berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress
Avocado: Glutathione is a naturally occurring reducing substance in the body, it has anti-oxidant properties. It also blocks intestinal absorption of certain fats. Avocados are rich in glutathione, lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and folate, all of which help in dealing with stress.
Darkchocolate: Research has shown that it can reduce your stress hormones, including cortisol. Also, antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation.
Nuts: Monounsaturated fats present in nuts help keep receptors in the brain sensitive to serotonin. Nuts contain fibre, antioxidants, and also unsaturated fatty acids, all of which lower blood pressure. Omega-3 essential fatty acids in walnuts have been linked to reduced rates of depression, Selenium mineral in cashews and almonds has been shown to elevate mood, and tryptophan in pumpkin seeds may help the brain make serotonin.
Prebioticfood: Stress affects the balance of bacteria in the gut and immune response. Prebiotic foods, such as garlic, onion, asparagus, legumes, unripe banana, whole grains and artichoke help in keeping it healthy. Yogurt is full of lysine and arginine, two amino acids that work together to decrease feelings of anxiety and stress hormone levels.
Worst food to deal with stress:
Icecream: It is essentially high in refined sugars which increase the cortisol secretion. Foods that are high in refined sugar increase stress hormones, causing sudden fall in sugars which the body recognises as a dire situation and causes activation of counter-regulatory stress response, resulting in further secretion of cortisol which triggers hunger.
Coffee: Though caffeine is a mood enhancer and decreases your risk of developing depression, it inhibits absorption of various important vitamins from the gut. Absorption of vitamin B and D are impaired by caffeine and these are known to be mood stabilising nutrients. Adding sugar to your coffee will cause a spike in blood sugar and also increase in cortisol level.
Canned foods: Canned food liners and plastic containers have Bisphenol A (BPA). It is a chemical that mimicks neuro transmitters and causes disruption in the stress regulatory portion of the brain. It is also known to have genetic effects in stress regulation within the brain.
Tofu: in America most soy products are treated with glyphosate, an herbicide which is known for its effect on mood stabilising minerals and also other nutrients, causing their deficiencies. Soy also contains phytic acid which decreases serotonin synthesis and copper which can create anxiety states.
Pressedjuices: fruits have a high amount of slow digesting fiber which balances the glucose and fructose present in them. But when fruit juices are pressed, fiber gets separated from the juice resulting in a concoction of calories. This causes a sudden rise in blood sugar levels and release of stress hormones.
Redwine: though a glass of alcohol may feel like it calms down an anxious mind, it has been found that regular alcohol consumption before bed causes sleep disturbances, diabetogenic effect and dehydration, apart from adding up extra calories, all of which can lead to increased stress hormones.
Wheatbran: It is a food product high in dietary fibre but it also contains high concentration of phytic acid. This blocks the absorption of important minerals from the gut. To reduce the level of phytic acid in your food, it is advised to consume sprouted or soaked food.
Dietsoda: Artificial sweeteners like Aspartame that are found in many diet sodas, have been found to block the production of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. This can cause symptoms of the central nervous system like head ache, mood changes and stress.