Many Americans are experiencing stress related to COVID-19 and the economic uncertainty it has brought. In a recent American Psychological Association study, the average American rated their level of stress as 5.4, compared with 4.9 last year. Stress levels are higher among parents with children and people of color. One way to lessen anxiety and stress is through dietary changes, says Chef Sam Cover.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, asparagus, and broccoli can make people feel better because they contain high levels of folate. Folate produces dopamine, which is a brain chemical that helps restore pleasure and calm, says Cover. Leafy vegetables also contain high levels of magnesium. Lack of magnesium can trigger headaches, which compound stress.
A 2018 article in the Journal of Nutritional Neuroscience links a high-fiber diet with reduced anxiety and stress. Foods high in fiber include leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, green peas, almonds, flaxseed, sesame seeds, and berries. These foods also balance blood sugar.
Eat Fatty Fish
Fatty fish such as salmon, halibut, mackerel, lake trout, and tuna are naturally high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which can prevent surges in stress and depression. They also help prevent heart disease. To gain the benefits of eating fish, adults should aim for at least two 3.5-ounce servings a week, says Cover. Those who dislike fish also can find Omega-3 fatty acids in chia seeds, seaweed, flaxseed, and walnuts, as well as some brands of eggs, milk, and soymilk.
Indulge in Dark Chocolate
Just the act of indulging oneself can often help reduce stress, says Cover. Also, the antioxidants in dark chocolate can reduce the stress hormone, and the cocoa can help the walls of your blood vessels to relax. For the rest results, adults should consume about 1 ounce of dark chocolate that is at least 70 per cocoa and has little or no added sugar.
Drink Green Tea
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that stress levels were 20 percent lower in those who drank five cups of green tea per day than they were in those who drank only one. Warm green tea has a more calming effect than the cold version of the beverage.
Sam Cover is a renowned chef who has worked in kitchens from coast to coast and managed teams in many well-known restaurants. He plans to open a new restaurant later this year.