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5 Foods to Relieve Stress: Take a Bite Out of Tension and Anxiety by Thinking About What You Eat

Sep. 18 2023, Published 4:59 p.m. ET

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Food can't solve all of your problems — but these five foods can theoretically help relieve stress.

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Ring the bell.

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“While oranges tend to get all the glory and the vitamin C department, red bell peppers are also antioxidant all stars,” said nutrition expert and GMA contributor Erin Palinsky-Wade. Vitamin C helps block the release of stress hormones like cortisol, and “one cup of red bell peppers provides three times the amount of the stress busting vitamin as one orange.”

Net results.

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From salmon to sardines and tuna, fatty fish have amazing calming benefits. “Salmon is awesome,” said Joy Bauer, Today nutritionist and author of Joy’s Simple Food Remedies. “It’s loaded with omega-3 fats, and we have oodles of studies showing that omega-3s are helpful with dealing with depression and anxiety.”

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Turn a new leaf.

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Swiss chard and other leafy veggies like spinach are full of magnesium,” explained Dana Angelo White, noted dietitian and founder of the website Dana White Nutrition. “Getting more magnesium can help control and limit your body’s release of the stress-spiking cortisol.” If salads aren’t really your thing, try adding kale or spinach to your morning smoothie.

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Go with the grain.

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Keep cool, calm and collected with something as simple as oatmeal. According to Dr. Craig N. Sawchuk, a mental health expert with the Mayo Clinic: “Carbohydrates are thought to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain, which has a calming effect. [So] eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains — for example, oatmeal, quinoa, whole-grain breads and whole-grain cereals.”

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Choc one up.

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Per the experts at Johns Hopkins University: “People who ate dark chocolate reported that they felt less stressed, and researchers confirmed that after eating dark chocolate, there were reduced levels of cortisol. This may be related to dark chocolate’s effect on heart health, since stress is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”


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