Wellness Tips 6 foods to eat when stressed

When you're having a crazy week at work and you feel like you have been stressed to your limit, the last thing on your mind is dieting.

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When you're having a crazy week at work and you feel like you have been stressed to your limit, the last thing on your mind is dieting.

Naturally, you tend to reach for the available which is usually junk foods, if we are to be honest with ourselves.

When it comes to combating stress levels, what you eat may actually help relieve your tension.

Indeed, some foods may help stabilize blood sugar or, better yet, your emotional response.

Here are 6 foods that are easy to reach for yet healthy just for you.

Green leafy vegetables

It's easy to reach for a snack when stressed, but try going green at lunch instead.

"Green leafy vegetables like spinach contain folate, which produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, helping you keep calm," says Heather Mangieri, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

A 2012 study in the Journal of Affective Disorders of 2,800 middle-aged and elderly people and found those who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression symptoms than those who took in the least.

Another 2013 study from the University of Otago found that college students tended to feel calmer, happier and more energetic on days they ate more fruits and veggies.

It can be hard to tell which came first, upbeat thoughts or healthy eating, but the researchers found that healthy eating seemed to predict a positive mood the next day.

Turkey breast

The amino acid, found in protein-containing foods, helps produce serotonin, "the chemical that regulates hunger and feelings of happiness and well-being," Mangieri says. On its own, tryptophan may have a calming effect.

In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Psychiatry Neuroscience, men and women who were argumentative (based on personality tests) took either tryptophan supplements or a placebo for 15 days.

Those who took tryptophan were perceived as more agreeable by their study partners at the end of the two weeks compared with when they didn't take it. Other foods high in tryptophan include nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, lentils, oats, beans and eggs.

Oatmeal

First rule of thumb: Don't completely deny your craving.

According to MIT research, carbohydrates can help the brain make serotonin, the same substance regulated by antidepressants.

But instead of reaching for that sugary bear claw, go for complex carbs. "Stress can cause your blood sugar to rise, Mangieri says, "so a complex carb like oatmeal won't contribute to your already potential spike in blood glucose."

Yoghurt

As bizarre as it may sound, the bacteria in your gut might be contributing to stress.

Research has shown that the brain signals to the gut, which is why stress can inflame gastrointestinal symptoms; communication may flow the other way too, from gut to brain.

A 2013 UCLA study among 36 healthy women revealed that consuming probiotics in yogurt reduced brain activity in areas that handle emotion, including stress compared to people who consumed yogurt without probiotics or no yogurt at all.

This study was small so more research is needed to confirm the results, but considering yogurt is full of calcium and protein in addition to probiotics, you really can't go wrong by adding more of it to your diet.

Pistachio

When you have an ongoing loop of negative thoughts playing in your mind, doing something repetitive with your hands may help silence your inner monologue.

Think knitting or kneading bread—or even shelling nuts like pistachios or peanuts.

The rhythmic moves will help you relax. Plus, the added step of cracking open a shell slows down your eating, making pistachios a diet-friendly snack.

What's more, pistachios have heart-health benefits. "Eating pistachios may reduce acute stress by lowering blood pressure and heart rate," Mangieri says. "The nuts contain key phytonutrients that may provide antioxidant support for cardiovascular health."

Seeds

Flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are all great sources of magnesium (as are leafy greens, yogurt, nuts and fish).

Loading up on the mineral may help regulate emotions. "Magnesium has been shown to help alleviate depression, fatigue and irritability," Sass says. "

When you're feeling especially irritable during that time of the month, the mineral also helps to fight PMS symptoms, including cramps and water retention."

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