April is Stress Awareness Month. But strategies to reduce and manage stress are welcome any time of the year. Studies show that women are more likely than men to report high levels of stress, and for African American women chronic or daily stress is even more problematic.
While we tend to think of approaching stress management from an emotional wellbeing and physical health standpoint, we don't often associate making dietary changes with reducing stress and anxiety.
While scheduling an appointment with your primary care doctor and seeking help from a therapist or spiritual advisor may still be necessary to help address the underlying reasons for why you're feeling stressed and the degree to which your stress affects your life, here are a few food for thought tips from Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RDN, CDCES, CDN, nutrition consultant and author Diabetes Guide to Enjoying Foods of the World.
Swap your morning coffee with a cup of warm tea. “The key to tea's ability to reduce stress is centered around its amino acid content. Both green and black tea contain L-theanine an amino acid that relaxes the mind yet it doesn’t make you feel drowsy. Enjoy 1-2 cups of tea each day as a nourishing way to distress.”
Boost your morning smoothie with spinach and flax seeds. “Thanks to an abundance of magnesium, spinach helps to lower blood pressure and stress levels. Flax seeds are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids that stimulate the release of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a natural anti-depressant that helps regulate mood.”
Load up on whole grains for lunch. “Whole grains boost serotonin levels to help reduce afternoon mood swings. Whole grains found in bread and crackers are high in fiber, B vitamins, iron, magnesium and selenium. The fiber slows the digestion of carbohydrate which promotes a steady release of serotonin.”