6 Calming Foods to Zap Stress

Studies have found that these options can help contribute to a healthy mental state, buffer against the harmful physical effects of stress, and dial up your serenity level. Eat your way to Zen

January 27, 2012

It's true that side effects may include off-color or funky-smelling urine. But it's a small price to pay for all the folate they deliver. The B vitamin is essential in helping you keep your cool when stress rears its ugly head (read more about the benefits of vitamin B). Steam some spears and add to salads or stir-fries; they're also tasty broiled and seasoned.

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Besides being an excellent source of healthy fat, these creamy green fruits (yes, fruits) can stress-proof your body. (Video: Relax for a better night's sleep) They're rich in glutathione, a substance that blocks intestinal absorption of certain fats that cause oxidative damage (the process that creates free radicals, the harmful compounds responsible for aging). Avocados also contain more folate than any other fruit. Try to stick to a single serving (about one-quarter of an avocado). Thinly sliced, it can go a long way on salads or replace mayo on sandwiches or burgers. Related: Live the Slim, Calm, Sexy life with just 15 minutes of yoga a day

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All berries, including blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress. (Free Guide: Eat to Beat Belly Fat) German researchers tested this by asking 120 people to give a speech and then do hard math problems. Those who had been given vitamin C had lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol after the stressfest. Add a handful of berries to salad, yogurt, or oatmeal, or try nibbling on them frozen.

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Another vitamin C powerhouse, oranges have an added benefit: That tough skin keeps them protected while they're bouncing around in your purse or backpack, so you can tote them anywhere. Try some other varieties, like clementines, tangelos, or mineolas.

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Oysters earned a place on this list because they're a mother lode of zinc. Six oysters--what you'd typically be served in a restaurant as an appetizer--have more than half the recommended daily allowance for this important calming mineral. They're an acquired taste, for sure, but fans love 'em with cocktail sauce, horseradish, or mignonette. Purists favor a simple squeeze of lemon.

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Research has proven that these shelled marvels provide more than one kind of cognitive edge. They contain alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid, and other polyphenols that have been shown to help prevent memory loss. And studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that the omega-3 fatty acids in walnuts keep the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in check. (Related: Happy Foods That Won't Make You Gain) To bring out their flavor, I toast them for 10 minutes, then chop them and add them to salads.

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