Eat Your Way to Relaxation: Stress Relieving Foods

By: Dylan Rodgers

Humans are like hermit crabs: we're both way too stressed all the time. Being a major source of food for many hungry predators gives hermit crabs good reason to be a little on edge; but what is our excuse? Bills, relationships, and traffic jams all seem like such small issues if you imagine yourself as a crab staring at a ravenous seagull drooling at the thought to rip your little crabby carapace to bite-sized crab-bits.

Stress originally was the body and the minds reaction to a life or death situation. We have somehow taken this scenario and spread it out to encompass everyday events that may or may not be life threatening. The issue here is that stress has very real effects on our body and mind, especially in excess.

When someone is extremely stressed out they can become incapable of feeling happy or good; their brain cells can actually diminish or even die, especially in the hippocampus (the learning and memory center); their body begins to store fat almost solely around the abdomen, the worst place possible; their blood pressure goes up; and finally it can result in heart attack or stroke. The worst part about all of this is that not one reaction to stress helps ease our edginess. In fact they all build on each other, feeding the insecurities to the point of physical and psychological melt-down.

But all is not lost! Believe it or not, there are foods that help reduce stress. The key word in that phrase is "help". To live a less stress-filled existence, a change in diet is not going to turn everything around, but it can definitely help.

Oatmeal: Carbohydrates aid in serotonin production, a chemical that in deficiency causes irritability, aggression, irregular eating patterns, sleep disorders, depression, etc. Oatmeal his high in fiber which means you'll absorb it more slowly, helping you prolong its effect on your serotonin levels at a steady pace.

Skim Milk: Studies have shown that women who drank four or more servings of low-fat milk every day were less likely to have stress-related PMS symptoms. PMS, HA! Pre Milk Satisfaction is more like it.

Salmon: This delicious, upstream swimmer is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 helps boost serotonin levels and suppress the production of anxiety related hormones, cortisol and adrenaline.

Walnuts: Even though they look like little brains, they do way more for the heart.  Walnuts are proven to help lower blood pressure.  The USDA recommends about 1.5 oz. a day.

Magnesium: Magnesium simply improves your body's response to stress.  Artichokes, cornmeal, pumpkin seeds, tomato paste, and spinach are all great sources of magnesium.

Sunflower Seeds: Jam packed full of folate, sunflower seeds help your brain release the pleasure-chemical dopamine. Pure down home, happy inducing entertainment.

Even though a modified diet won't solve all your problems, it just goes to show you how much can change based off of the foods you eat. Have some oatmeal laced with walnuts and low-fat milk for breakfast, stand in the rising sun, and remember to breathe.

Photo: jessebezz

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