Most people in today’s world are stressed to the max! Whether it is due to always being on the go running from work to school to workouts to kids events or whether it is due to deadlines at work or maybe relationship tensions we all seem to have stress in our lives in one way, shape or form. Unfortunately, stress causes extreme havoc on the body. It increases the cortisol levels in our body which increases weight gain. It increases our risk for a number of deadly diseases including cancer and heart disease. It also just makes us flat out grumpy and depressed! The good news is there are plenty of natural ways to combat stress levels. One of which is just including certain foods in your diet that will either increase serotonin (the feel good hormone) or decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Check out this list of 10 foods that you should include to kick your stress to the curb:

1. Oatmeal – Complex carbohydrates have been shown to increase serotonin levels in the body. This helps us to feel good and can be used as a quick fix when we are feeling down or stressed. Other complex carbs such as whole grain bread, whole grain pasta and starchy veggies can also have the same affect.

2. Oranges – Vitamin C decreases levels of cortisol and also strengthens the immune system. This will help to prevent illness that can drag us under and slow down our productivity which is an extreme cause of increased stress.

3. Spinach – and other magnesium rich foods such as salmon, cooked soybeans (edamame) and other leafy greens. Without enough magnesium in your body you could feel fatigued or even worse find yourself in bed with an extreme headache. Both of which will increase your stress levels. Eat magnesium rich foods to prevent these issues from coming up.

4. Fatty Fish – Fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon and tuna will decrease your risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (just to name a few). In addition, research has shown that cultures that have diets rich in omega 3s have lower levels of depression and the fatty acids may help to increase the effects of antidepressant medications as well. By reducing risk of disease through eating omega 3s you can help to offset any rise in risk due to elevated stress levels.

5. Black Tea – Drinking at least 2 cups per day has been linked to recovering from stressful situations more rapidly. Those who drank black tea reduced their cortisol levels much faster than those who were not drinking the black tea.

6. Nuts – All types of nuts including pistachios, almonds, walnuts and more protect against the damaging physical effects of stress. Walnuts have shown to reduce cardiovascular strain during times of acute stress which often put immense strain on the heart. Almonds with their high levels of magnesium, vitamin B and vitamin E have shown to rev up your immune system when stressed to help protect you from getting sick.

7. Avocados – One half of an avocado has two times the amount of potassium as a banana. Potassium is the nutrient in avocados that helps us to reduce effects of stress. It helps to regulate our heartbeat and balance the nervous system, two areas of the body that go out of sorts when we get high levels of stress. Other foods high in potassium that are also beneficial include bananas, strawberries and tomatoes.

8. Crunchy Raw Veggies or Fruit – Really anything crunchy but since we don’t want to encourage you to munch on cookies, crackers or chips due to the negative effects of weight gain we are going with the crunch of fruits and veggies here. The crunch alone helps you to release tension in the jaw and relieve stress.

9. Milk – Consuming calcium can help to decrease anxiety and prevent mood swings. By getting just 1/2 cup to 1 cup of skim milk you are already reaping the benefits.

10. Dark Chocolate – Yes! You read it right, dark chocolate! Filled with antioxidants and heart benefits this yummy treat is also packed with nutrients that increase the serotonin in your body. Not only does the taste put a smile on your face but the nutrients also help you to feel more at ease. Be cautious with this one, only 1-2 oz a day is where you need to stay! Eating much more than that could cause weight gain. Studies have shown that as little as 1.4 oz a day will give beneficial effects.

So, a little bit of a different spin on “stress eating” rather than eating a 1/2 gallon of ice cream or going for a bag of chips when the world seems to be crashing down on top of you grab one of these treats to help reduce your stress levels and improve your overall health!