Which foods can help combat stress? Here are seven superfoods that have proven results.
Stress-eaters, step forwards. It’s easy to have a binge at the end of a bad day, or when you’re especially burnt out - but it’s probably safe to say most of us reach for the things that aren’t necessarily good for us.
We aren’t here to preach. But there are some foods which have proven benefits when it comes to tackling anxiety and stress - some of which you probably already have in your kitchen cupboard, or can at least find in a supermarket nearby.
Here are some of the proven stress-busting superfoods that might be able to help you.
The Korean fermented vegetable dish typically made with cabbage has long been credited with anti-stress properties.
Full of good bacteria and high in vitamins and minerals, it’s thought fermented foods are especially beneficial because of the impact they have on our gut microbiome.
Gut health is becoming an increasingly discussed topic in the medical field, as the links between our gut and our overall well-being are explored in greater detail.
Sometimes called the mind-gut connection, it’s the idea that terms like ‘stomach-turning’, ‘gut-wrenching’ and having ‘butterflies’ are no coincidence - when we’re feeling stressed or anxious, we can often get stomach ache or lose our appetite.
Eggs have a love-hate relationship with the dieticians. One day they’re too high fat, the next they’re packed with vitamins and minerals that can help with a healthy stress response.
One of the key players featured in whole eggs is choline. Though not technically a vitamin or a mineral, it’s a nutrient generally grouped with vitamin B complexes.
Critically, choline regulates bodily functions including communication between neurons and overall brain health.
Like Kimchi, with artichokes it’s all about the high fibre and prebiotic content that supports your gut health.
The notable prebiotics featured in these perennials are fructooligosaccharides (good luck with that pronunciation) as well as potassium and magnesium, known to combat tiredness - and when we’re feeling a bit more energised, often things feel easier to manage.
Oysters, along with other shellfish like mussels, are high in amino acids such as taurine. As well as helping boost our immune system, taurine plays a vital role for our nervous system and supports the production of neurotransmitters - notably, dopamine.
Some studies go so far as to suggest taurine might have antidepressant effects.
One explains, “Taurine was found to inhibit the decrease of sucrose consumption and prevent the deficiency of spatial memory and anxiety [...] suggesting a preventive effect of taurine on depression-like behaviour”.
Still on the subject of amino acids, tahini is a Middle Eastern paste made from sesame seeds. The tiny seeds often found sprinkled on a bagel or in Asian cuisine are packed with the amino acid L-tryptophan.
According to one study, which looked at the effects of a high tryptophan diet on young adults, the amino acid “is a precursor of serotonin synthesis”.
What that essentially means is tryptophan majorly supports the production of serotonin, which modulates critical behaviours like our mood and reward complex.
Sweet potatoes are a nutrient-rich source of carbohydrates, which can help to keep cortisol levels at bay.
Cortisol is our stress hormone, and it can spike when we feel under duress.
Sweet potatoes are also loaded with vitamin C and potassium, which can also help regulate our stress response.
It wouldn’t be a health listicle without an appearance from everyone’s favourite breakfast berry.
Blueberries boast a plethora of health benefits, from anti-ageing to cancer-fighting. They’re also famed for their anti-inflammatory benefits, thanks to a high count of flavonoid antioxidants.
In 2017, one study specifically analysed the relationship between foods high in flavonoid and the risk of developing depression. The conclusion was there seemed to be a link between consuming the antioxidants and improved mood.