It’s St. Patrick’s Day! Today, I’ve decided to feature some amazing green foods that help fight stress. Fortunately, these foods are stress-busting all year round. Let’s have a look at how they work!
This delicious, tangy green fruit is an excellent source of Vitamin C, a vitamin that is essential for stress support. Vitamin C is very important in the management of stress as it is believed to help reduce levels of the “fight or flight” stress hormone, cortisol.
One study found that taking 1,000mg of vitamin C three times a day reduced blood pressure, subjective stress and increased cortisol clearance in a group of 60 young adults (1).
A recent review found that women taking high-dose vitamin C had reduced anxiety and lowered blood pressure in response to stress (2).
It is believed that vitamin C gets depleted with prolonged stress. The cortisol producing adrenal glands have a high concentration of vitamin C and so the more cortisol is released, the more vitamin C is lost (3).
Two kiwis have over 200% of your daily recommendations of vitamin C. Be sure to eat plenty of kiwis and other vitamin C-rich foods to optimize the stress busting effects.
2. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are a must eat during times of stress. These green seeds contain magnesium, one of the most- if not the most- important minerals for stress management. Magnesium is believed to be important to the stress response for a number of reasons.
Firstly, when we are under stress, magnesium responds by exiting the cell and entering the extra-cellular fluid in order to protect the body from the adverse effects of stress (4). In result, prolonged stress leads to magnesium deficiency causing fatigue, irritability, insomnia, poor memory and others (4).
Magnesium may also play an important role in psychological stress by counteracting some of stress’s negative effects. For example, it is believed that psychological stress reduces antioxidant activity in the body and magnesium helps to buffer this (4).
Magnesium also helps to reduce levels of a hormone that stimulates the release of cortisol thereby suppressing the release of cortisol, the stress hormone (4). The Magnesium list goes on. So be sure to eat a handful of pumpkin seeds under times of stress and your body will thank you.
This healthy, trendy and delicious fruit has lots of good things to offer. Among them is vitamin B5, pantothenic acid, the anti-stress B-vitamin. Vitamin B5 contributes to the proper functioning of the adrenal glands. The result of a B5 deficiency is an inability of the adrenal gland to produce stress hormones thereby leading to adrenal insufficiency (5). In result, your adrenals will not respond optimally to stress thereby contributing to fatigue, an inability to cope with stress, achiness, among others (5).
B5 is also needed for the production of red blood cells, wound healing, proper digestion, and energy production. One avocado has more than half of your day’s recommended B5 intake. Have it on your toast, in your salad, or as a yummy dip (i.e. guac!).
Yes! Pistachios are very nutritious. Compared to other nuts, pistachios have more protein and less fat. Pistachios are also high in vitamin B6, pyrodixine, a B vitamin needed for energy metabolism, neurotransmitter production and, you guessed it, stress reduction. B6 exerts its anti-stress effects by contributing in the production of the calming and feel-good neurotransmitters GABA and serotonin (6).
For the ladies reading this, B6 may help ease pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) by regulating fluid balance in the body. Water retention in PMS leads to uncomfortable symptoms such as breast tenderness and mood swings (6). Am I right ladies? B6 may also help relieve menstrual pain, taken along with magnesium (6).
At only 160 calories and 6 grams of protein, one ounce of pistachios (49 kernels) has almost half of the adult recommendations for B6. So next time you’re feeling stressed, take a deep breath, and reach for the pistachios.
5. Green Tea
When you are under stress, skip the coffee and have a cup of green tea. Even though green tea contains some caffeine, it also contains the calming amino acid L-Theanine. This amino acid is suggested to reduce physical and mental stress, boost mood and improve cognition (7). L-Theanine increases alpha-wave activity, which results in a relaxed state of mind during wakefulness (8). Meditation also increases alpha-wave activity, which is why mediation is so important for stress reduction. If mediation were a green fruit, it would have been first on my list! Seriously though, if you experience high levels of stress in your life, I do urge you to take up some meditation. It doesn’t have to take up too much time out of your day. You can look for short mindful meditation videos on Youtube, plug in some headphones, relax and meditate. And when you are back to work, have a cup of green tea.
To wrap-up, be sure to take good care of your body, eat and drink your green anti-stress goodies, and practice some stress-reducing activities like mediation. And of course, make sure to relax and enjoy some green beer tonight for your St. Paddy’s day celebrations.
Haas, E.M (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition. The complete guide to diet and nutritional medicine. 21st century edition. Celestial Arts, Berkley.