With a laundry list of micronutrients such as vitamins A, C, K and folate and minerals like manganese and iron, spinach should be the top staple in everyone’s diet. But in times of stress, the adrenal glands (where stress hormones are stored) tend to be particularly depleted of their normally high levels of vitamin C.
To de-stress: Replace iceberg lettuce with spinach next time you make a salad for a more nutrient-dense option.
These root vegetables are high in beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that helps support the immune system.
To de-stress: Great raw with hummus, carrots can also be steamed, sautéed, roasted and glazed. Just 4 ounces should do the trick!
This versatile leafy green is loaded with magnesium, which is considered by many nutrition experts as the ultimate “anti-stress” mineral. “Magnesium helps muscles and nerves relax,” says Rachel Fiske, a nutrition consultant and personal trainer in San Francisco, CA. According to Fiske, a deficiency in magnesium can lead to high blood pressure, unregulated blood sugar and headaches. Talk about stress.
To de-stress: Steam, lightly sauté or toss one cup of Swiss chard into a good, hearty soup (right before serving) to reap the benefits.
With more vitamin C than an orange, broccoli is also a rich source of vitamin A and potent antioxidants that help your body manage everyday stress.
To de-stress: Steam (rather than boil) to retain more of broccoli’s important nutrients, or eat raw with your favorite dip as an afternoon snack. A one cup serving of this super food delivers pretty much every stress-managing nutrient you need. So, listen to your mom! Eat your broccoli.
'Zinc is essential for immune health and stress management, particularly in our fast-paced urban lifestyles', says Fiske. And pumpkin seeds are chock full of it! Symptoms of a zinc deficiency include loss of appetite, irritability and depression. So a handful of pumpkin seeds now and then isn't a bad idea.
To de-stress:Toss a quarter cup in a salad for some extra crunch…and to keep your zinc reserve high. You can also try roasting the seeds and tossing them with olive oil and a sprinkle with salt for a satisfying snack.
Cauliflower is high in fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and elimination. If stress causes constipation or other digestive problems, bulk up on this veggie.
To de-stress: Steam half a cup of cauliflower and mash (as you would potatoes) with some olive oil and spices and serve it as a guilt-free side dish to basically any entrée!
A great protein source, tuna also contains omega-3 fatty acids (the “good fats” that Americans are not consuming enough of). Think of the omega-3 fats as a natural anti-inflammatory. When stress is present (especially chronic stress), inflammation can take place throughout the body.
To de-stress: Four ounces of this flavorful fish is enough to provide these stress-supportive benefits.
This spring vegetable is not only high in antioxidants (ideal for combating oxidative stress) but also a good source of tryptophan, an important amino acid that the body uses to make serotonin, which helps us sleep and supports a healthy mood. “Serotonin deficiency is the most common cause of panic attacks,” says Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure. Whether you have a full-blown anxiety or panic attack or are simply just experiencing too much stress, eat more serotonin-containing foods.
To de-stress: Slice asparagus thin and enjoy raw with your favorite dressing or lightly steam or boil it (make sure it retains its natural crunch and color) and add to a pasta dish or salad. Just one cup should help you restore your mood-enhancing serotonin levels.
You may think of it as just “hippie food,” yet this nutritional powerhouse has stress-relieving B vitamins and 15 minerals, including magnesium, selenium and zinc. “It boosts metabolism and is beneficial for stabilizing blood sugar and weight loss,” says Susan Arthur, a nutrition consultant in Aptos, CA.
To de-stress: Sprinkle about one tablespoon on popcorn for a faux-cheese healthy snack. Warning: You might get addicted!
Thanks to their high vitamin C content (291 percent of the RDA), bell peppers are a good anti-stress food. They’re also low in calories (red bell peppers are only 25 calories per cup) and high in dietary fiber, putting them on the top of George Mateljan's The World’s Healthiest Foods list.
To de-stress: Add one cup to your favorite salsa recipe for extra stress-support…and an unexpected twist.