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Plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds all contain specific nutrients that help reduce mental and physical stress. Keep in mind that just because a processed food is vegan, such as granola or a cereal bar, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy or going to make you less stressed. The power of plant-based foods comes from their whole food principle, and because they contain raw vitamins and minerals, your body can use these more easily to fight off stress, just as nature intended it to do.

Plus, think about it this way: eating animal-rich foods takes more work for you to prepare and is often more costly. Not to mention that the animal was under a great deal of stress to even produce the food, which isn’t going to make it especially stress-reducing to your body.

So keep things easy – both in the kitchen and outside of the kitchen – when it comes to food. Choose whole, plant-based foods that specifically contain high levels of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and B vitamins. These nutrients all help aid in nervous system health. A new study recently showed that potassium-rich foods were also linked to lower rates of heart stroke in women. Calcium helps reduce blood pressure and is so easy to get on a vegan diet without milk at all. Magnesium is a nutrient that’s extremely important to lower your stress levels, and B vitamins are another key component to reduce both physical and mental stress that are very easy to get enough of on a vegan diet.

Focus on these nutrients that we like to call ” The Big 5,” and make them a part of your daily routine. They’ll help you feel better than any processed food will, and they’re so much kinder to your body (and the animals!) than animal-based meals. Plus, they’re also really inexpensive, which reduces your stress on a whole other level. Eat up and feel your stress subside with each and every bite!

1. Spinach

Spinach is an awesome leafy green to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It boasts all calcium, magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins, not to mention some iron and Vitamin A for good measure. These nutrients help to both calm you down and boost your energy all in one. Use some fresh spinach in your next morning smoothie or possibly add some to your next super salad at lunch. Not a fan of spinach? Kale is a great alternative.

2. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are nature’s healthiest comfort food. They’re rich in magnesium and Vitamin B6, and they have more potassium than a banana. They’re also a decent source of calcium, with 40 milligrams per potato. Despite their sweet taste and high carb content, they won’t spike your blood sugar like white potatoes and actually may help lower your glycemic index to halt cravings quicker. Pan roast your sweet potatoes to cook them more healthfully than fried versions, and enjoy the simplicity behind preparing this easy, stress-reducing comfort food. Winter squash is a great alternative if you’re not a sweet potato fan, however.

3. Bananas

Who doesn’t love bananas, right? Sweet, creamy, soft and satisfying, bananas are a treat that actually count towards your fruit and veggie intake! I like having them at breakfast, since my stress seems to be higher in the morning (which is actually when the stress hormone cortisol is highest for most people). I find they help mellow me out and fill me up all in one. Have them over some yummy porridge, in a smoothie, alongside some nuts and seeds or coconut yogurt, or just keep things easy and have one for a snack in between meals. They’re also awesome to have pre or post-workout, since they contain a perfect mix of magnesium, Vitamin B6, fiber, natural sugars, and potassium. Bananas also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps lower your stress and reduce anxiety.

4. Chia

Chia is a such a stress-reducing superfood! Most people tend to forget about it to reduce stress, but it’s amazingly high in all magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, calcium, and even iron and fiber. Chia is great to not only reduce your stress, but it also improve your heart health. It’s also a top notch energy food to help boost your workouts and aid in recovery. Not to mention, it might just help you build some lean muscle, too! Mix some chia in your next smoothie, oatmeal, bowl of quinoa, or try my favorite snack: make a yummy protein pudding with chia, vegan vanilla protein powder, coconut flour, nondairy milk, stevia, bananas, and some cacao. This is one of my favorite, healthy stress-reducing and energizing desserts. Enjoy it and let me know what you think!

5. Cacao

Speaking of cacao, it’s another awesome superfood to fight stress, and you’ll want to enjoy it more often. Cacao is rich in typtophan that triggers serotonin (the feel good hormone) and helps the body produce dopamine (another feel good hormone). These both improve mood and lower stress, all while giving you a boost of energy! Cacao is one of the richest source of magnesium that exists, and it’s an awesome source of B vitamins, iron, calcium, and potassium. Remember, no matter how indulgent cacao might seem, it does come from a bean, which makes it a health food to be enjoyed as much as absolutely possible. You can use raw cacao or cocoa powder, though raw forms of cacao contain about seven times the antioxidants of heated forms known as cocoa powder! Try out some of these delicious cacao recipes as a fabulous way to get your fill!

Other great sources of stress reducing nutrients include:

  • cashews
  • pumpkin
  • all leafy greens
  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • maca
  • oranges
  • acai
  • goji
  • oats
  • quinoa

What’s your favorite healthy food to reduce stress?

Image source: French Toast Chia Power Pudding 

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