’Tis the season to be jolly but in laws, last-minute flight cancelations and drunk uncles can make us want to deck more than our halls. The good news is, in this case, it’s possible (and healthy!) to eat your feelings away. Wendy Kaplan, MS, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and consultant/educator for Mondays at Racine Cancer Foundation on Long Island, dished on five foods that relieve stress.
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Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which researchers at Ohio State University found can reduce stress and anxiety in 2011. Kaplan tells patients to aim for two servings a week to ensure they’re getting between 2 to 4 grams of the stress-buster. Not a fan of salmon? “Sardines and anchovies are also good choices,” Kaplan said.
This healthy fat is loaded with stress-fighting antioxidants like tocopherols (compounds related to vitamin E) and polyphenols (natural plant compounds). These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects which decreases cortisol, a downer chemical. Kaplan suggested using the extra virgin variety. “They contain more antioxidants than refined olive oil.” Drizzle it on salads, sauté veggies with it or use it in a marinade.
This probiotic powerhouse is a fermented milk drink with the thick consistency of yogurt. Like Greek yogurt, it’s loaded with live active cultures (probiotics). These cultures help decrease pro-inflammatory agents and ward off infections, ultimately lessening stress. A word advice from the doc, “Some may need to get used to kefir’s unique tart taste. I would pair it with other foods.” Smoothies and cereals are two of Kaplan’s favorites.
An ounce of dark chocolate a day can keep the doctor away. Dark chocolate contains the feel-good hormone serotonin, which is known to help decrease stress. Just “make sure it’s at least 72 percent” to get the full blissful benefits.
Count pumpkin, butternut and acorn squashes among these cool-weather veggies that reduce stress. “Winter squash has plenty of potassium which works on improving our…blood pressure.” They also help fight inflammation and power up immune systems via vitamins A and C and beta-carotene—a total plus, especially during flu season.