Suffering from stress or anxiety is something that’s become much more openly discussed in recent years and, as a consequence, the numbers of people who live with stress is enormous.
In a recent UK survey by Axa, 90% of those questioned said they experienced stress on a weekly basis and one-tenth said they felt stressed on a permanent basis. Obviously, stress is a very personal and individual experience and there are many ways to deal with feelings of stress. Some people turn to counselling; others seek assistance via their GP and medication. Mindfulness courses are now very popular, as are classes like yoga, where a focus on breathing can help settle and calm the mind.
If you want to combat anxiety without medication, another avenue to explore is the foods that you eat. While some foods, such as alcohol and fried foods, have been said to contribute to anxiety, others have been found to help people become less prone to stress. Take a look at the different foods listed below which are said to have calming and de-stressing properties.
It’s the classic food that people reach for when something goes wrong. If you’re feeling anxious or need cheering up, a square or two of chocolate can help bolster your mood. And it’s not just because it tastes so good. The purer and darker the chocolate you can get your hands on – lookout for high percentages of cocoa solids on the label – the better it will be at reducing levels of cortisol in your body. This helps lower stress as it’s the hormone cortisol that sets off those feelings of stress and angst.
We all know about the healing powers of chocolate, of course, and while medically speaking high cocoa dark chocolate might be the best for stress from a medical point of view, any chocolate-based pudding can decrease stress levels, too, and a browse through any of BBC Good Food’s chocolate-based recipes is enough to reduce stress levels alone.
Whipping up a chocolate cake may not be quite as easy as throwing a few acai berries in a bowl of porridge, for example, and running around the kitchen for a couple of hours will only serve to boost those stress levels even more, but nowadays ordering in a delicious dessert is an option. Delivery service Deliveroo is able to bring tasty desserts to your door.
One of the most popular so-called “superfoods” on the planet at the moment, this South American purple berry is packed with antioxidants, phytonutrients and vitamins. Antioxidants have been linked to reducing people’s stress levels. Acai is generally available in a powdered form, or you could indulge in one of the latest food trends and enjoy an acai bowl. This is basically a really thick smoothie (so thick you eat it with a spoon) made with acai berries, and then topped with a mix of other fruits, nuts and seeds.
When you eat oats, you’re consuming complex carbohydrates which can improve your mood. This is because they trigger your brain to increase the levels of serotonin in your body and serotonin is a mood-enhancing chemical. This leads to better mood balancing and stress reduction. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on the top too – the scent of cinnamon has been linked to lowering blood pressure and reducing irritability.
Spinach has always been one of those foods that everyone knows is “good for you”. It certainly seemed to work for Popeye! Not only did it improve his strength, but he always seemed to be in good spirits, too. The dark green vegetables like spinach have lots of magnesium in them, good for blood pressure and blood sugar levels. But magnesium is also a natural source of stress relief, so adding a regular dose of spinach to your diet could do you a power of good. Of course, just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean you necessarily like the taste. If so, disguise it in a smoothie or a soup.
Experimenting with different foods to see if they improve your stress levels is a positive step in taking better care of yourself. And along the way, you might discover an appetite for previously unknown tastes and flavours. What do you have to lose?