If you live in a big city, you are exposed to stress-making elements on a regular basis. Whether you’re stuck in rush hour traffic, delayed on a subway train or simply trying to navigate your way through your massively populated home turf, there’s an opportunity to feel stressed out at any turn.
One way to combat that tension is to find a favorite workout class. Letting loose at spin or getting 60 minutes of yoga in the middle of a crazed week can do wonders for the soul. But there are things we can do outside of the gym to make life a little calmer, too—namely when it comes to the foods we’re putting in our bodies.
You already know that eating well can help us be our best, but did you know there are specific mineral-rich foods that can aid in lowering stress levels and boosting relaxation? Here are five foods that you should stock up on to keep your stress at bay—plus the one thing you should avoid when you’re tense.
Dark, leafy greens
For a morning boost of magnesium and zinc, add a handful of spinach or Swiss chard to your morning smoothie or load up on foods like arugula, cabbage and bok choy. Besides being tasty, these superfoods can also help you relax. “Magnesium helps regulate those rapid fire nerve signals in your brain during times of stress and anxiety, all while the part of the brain that is related to mood and cell signaling is powered by zinc,” Tracy Lockwood, a celebrity registered dietitian in New York City and founder of Tracy Lockwood Nutrition, explains. “Both of these minerals play a role in regulating our mood and function.”
Seeds are the unsung hero of the bulk foods aisle. They’re cheaper than nuts, high in protein and, according to Lockwood, also packed with the oh-so-important magnesium and zinc. Try sprinkling pumpkin seeds into your yogurt, adding chia seeds in smoothies, or putting sunflower seeds in pretty much anything.
Omega 3 fatty acids help keep cortisol (AKA the stress hormone) in check, Elizabeth Fassberg MPH, RD, CDN, says. One great source of it? Salmon. With so many different ways to prepare this delicious fish—poached, broiled, grilled and cured, to name a few—you don’t have to ask us twice to eat more of it.
Like salmon, walnuts are also high in omega 3 fatty acids and—bonus—can help you feel fuller longer. Try mixing some into your favorite salads or munching on a handful when you need a snack.
Fassberg says it’s important to have balanced meals with protein, carbs and fat to keep you satisfied longer, so your blood sugar doesn’t drop and make you feel stressed. Oatmeal and other whole grains like quinoa and wheat berries can “help you stay full longer so you don’t have spikes in blood sugar,” she says.
The one food to avoid when you’re tense? Caffeine. “It can make you feel jittery and stressed,” Fassberg explains.
Here’s to being healthy, happy, held over and hella relaxed!