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These Healthful Foods (Including Dark Chocolate) Reduce Stress

July 16, 2021

By Hartford HealthCare Senior Services Staff
When stressed, do you feel like running to the nearest fast-food restaurant or reaching for a sugary candy bar? Resist the simple sugars, the fat and preservatives -- try these stress-busting foods that are also good for you. Green Leafy Vegetables: Spinach for example, contains folate, which produces dopamine,  a pleasure-inducing brain chemical that helps you keep calm, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. If you don't like spinach, disguise its taste by adding it to a smoothie. all! Oatmeal: Carb lovers don’t have to deny their craving. Carbohydrates can help the brain make serotonin, the same substance regulated by antidepressants. Stress can cause your blood sugar to rise, so reach for a complex carb like oatmeal. That way, if your blood glucose has already spiked, it won't make it worse. Add a scoop of peanut butter if you have a sweet tooth. Pistachios: These have heart-health benefits. Eating pistachios may reduce acute stress by lowering blood pressure and heart rate. The nuts contain key phytonutrients that may provide antioxidant support for cardiovascular health. Cracking open the shell also slows down your eating. Dark Chocolate: Just a bite of dark chocolate might have the power to regulate your stress levels. Research has shown that it can reduce your stress hormones, including cortisol. Also, the antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of you blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. Go for varieties that contain at least 70 percent cocoa. Seeds: Flaxseed, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are all great sources of magnesium (as are leafy greens, yogurt, nuts and fish). Loading up on this mineral may help regulate emotions. Magnesium has been shown to help alleviate depression, fatigue and irritability. Avocado: This is a good fat to eat in moderation. It might help shut down stress-eating by filling you up and making you feel more satisfied. That full feeling will make you less inclined to reach for unhealthy snacks when stress kicks in. Don't limit avocado to guacamole. Mash it up and use it instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches, pasta and tuna salads.