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12 Foods That Help You Relax

Updated on April 7, 2018
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How many times do you open your fridge’s door to find something to eat while studying? In my case it’s something I’m used to. Though I’m not a regular student now but still whenever I’m stressed out by work or studying something in long spells I reach out for something that helps me relax. Such cravings are simulated by our brain, and while many people go on a hunger strike while working, most of the people have an urge to eat something.

The fact is that when we feel stressed out, our brain lets us know that we need to eat something that helps it relax. That’s why most of us eat a lot during stress. Research has also shown that taking de-stressants can help generate more immune cells which results in relaxation of our nervous system. In this article I’m going to list some foods that will prevent you from taking any de-stressant and relieve your stress the natural way.

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1. Soup

Soup is the best food you can take to relax. Chicken stock is the best option since it makes your body get rid of many infections and other foreign bodies. You can also add vegetables like tomatoes, green chili, spring onion, capsicum and garlic for calming effect on your nervous system. Prefer hot soups over colder ones and those having thin consistency rather than thick pasty ones.

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2. Milk

Milk is another beverage that can help you relax, the reason behind taking it at bed-time. If you need a quick calming effect, reach out for a glass of warm milk. Warm milk is known to contain tryptophan –a compound which helps in the production of serotonin (around 43%). Serotonin is known to induce a feeling of pleasure along with helping in sleep. You can always take in cold milk during the day to avoid drowsiness for cold milk is still rich in calcium which also induces calmness. All milk products including ice cream have the same effect but they must be low in sugar content.

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3. Eggs

Just like milk, eggs are a source of amino acids packed with tryptophan which is a relaxing brain chemical. Make sure you include eggs in your diet either in breakfast or as a snack (boiled egg).

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4. Cheese

Cheese being classified as a protein source has the same calming effect on your brain as of milk or eggs. Choose cheese types which are high in protein (contains tryptophan ) like Cottage , Cheddar, Gruyere, Swiss , and Ricotta varieties. Next time you’re making a sandwich, don’t forget to layer some shredded cheese in it.

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5. Honey

Honey in its natural non-additive form is high in tryptophan to relax the body. Along with tryptophan , the potassium in honey has a soothing effect on brain and nerves. Potassium works against excessive acids and stress hormones to relax our nervous system. Research has also shown that glucose in honey interferes with orexin (a neuro-transmitter) which helps in keeping you alert. So, make sure you add a spoonful of honey to your cereals, milk, or as a spread in your sandwich!

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6. Brown Rice

Being complex carb, brown rice simulate the release of insulin , which helps sleep-inducing amino acids enter the brain and produce sleep-inducing substances such as serotonin and melatonin . Same is the function of all other complex carb foods like unrefined grains including oats and wheat, wholegrain pasta, and legumes. The result is a sound sleep, or at least you start feeling relaxed and calm.

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7. Nuts & Seeds

Nuts are rich in magnesium, selenium, zinc, vitamin E and vitamin B-complex that help relax the brain when taken in large quantities. Peanuts and pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium but peanuts also have high sodium content which is why they are not good for your health when taken in large amount. Peanut butter is a good alternate which contain both magnesium and vitamin B6. Deficiency of magnesium leads to mental retardation while deficiency of selenium has been linked to increased depression and anxiety. Brazil nuts are rich in selenium in zinc, and just a handful is enough to fulfill your RDA intake. Almonds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are rich in tryptophan which helps producing serotonin. Almonds are also rich in vitamin E which helps rebuild the cellular damage caused by stress and anxiety. Walnuts are also rich in magnesium, vitamin B and zinc –all the essential relaxing ingredients. So make sure to keep a blend of these nuts at hand.

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8. Seafood

Seafood is rich in magnesium, zinc and selenium, and has the same effect on our nervous system as of nuts and seeds (include tryptophan naturally). Halibut is high in magnesium. Tuna, cod, salmon, shrimps and lobsters are high in selenium content, though not nearly half as much as nuts. Tuna and salmon are known to fight stress hormones in our body. Omega-3 (a fatty acid) is also known to fight stress and help you relax since it triggers brain to produce calming hormones. Salmon, mackerel, trout, tuna, and sardines all are rich in omega-3 compound. You can also take in omega-3 through capsules in the form of cod liver oil if seafood is not available.

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9. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate just like other foods is rich in tryptophan , which helps manufacture serotonin , the relaxing compound. It is also known to boost the endorphin and dopamine (amino acids) levels in the brain that results in enhanced mood. Research has proven that eating a small amount of dark chocolate daily can lower the level of stress hormones in your body. So eat your chocolates but beware they are low in sugar content and high in cocoa content (around 30:70 ratio).

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10. Vegetables

Some vegetables high in magnesium have a relaxing effect on body like other magnesium-rich foods. Spinach has very high magnesium content and it’s also a good source of vitamin C (another relaxing agent). To keep yourself stress-free, take a cup of fresh spinach leaves or half a cup of cooked spinach. Broccoli also helps you relax for it is high in potassium and vitamin C, so don’t forget to include it into your salads. Peppermint is another vegetable/herb which due to its high magnesium content relaxes brain and helps you more focused. It also reduces the stress associated with muscular cramps and intestinal gas. So keep a fresh peppermint juice or fresh mint leaves at hand to pop into your mouth during work.

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11. Tea

Tea has been used as a relaxant for a long time throughout the world. You can choose either from black, green, or other herbal teas to relax. Black or green tea leaves are rich in L-theanine (an amino acid) which contains two sedative flavonoids : apigenin and chrysin . Other herbal teas known to reduce stress and anxiety include basil, lemon balm, valerian and chamomile. Chamomile tea has been proven to reduce anxiety and panic in people suffering from generalized panic disorder, but is not good for pregnant women.

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12. Fruits

Fruits rich in vitamin C are the most relaxing among others for vitamin C in fruits helps in converting tryptophan into serotonin . The list of such fruits is quite long: Strawberries, kiwi fruit, dried dates, figs, papaya, cherries, oranges, guava, mangoes, pineapple, berries, grapefruit and bananas all are rich in vitamin C. Study has shown that an intake of 1,000 mg vitamin C lowers levels of stress hormones in body. So, next time you need to relax, take a bowl full of fruits!

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    • iguidenetwork profile image

      iguidenetwork 

      5 years ago from Austin, TX

      Except for milk (I'm lactose intolerant) and seafoods (I'm allergic to them), I can take all of the foods listed here. Thanks for posting! Up and useful.

    • profile image

      A.M 

      5 years ago

      Very informative article .. Thank You So Much.

    • profile image

      fife 

      6 years ago

      love it all looks like my test stress is on the off swich

    • Karen N profile image

      Karen N 

      7 years ago from United States

      Good information, I think that most of us could all use a little extra relaxation.

    • Spider Girl profile imageAUTHOR

      Spider Girl 

      7 years ago from the Web

      @Minnetonka Twin, Thanks for your appreciation, hope it helps :)

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      7 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks for the great list of foods to help bring on relaxation. You did a great job with the great information.

    • Spider Girl profile imageAUTHOR

      Spider Girl 

      7 years ago from the Web

      @TammyL, glad that you found it informative, it was writing goal in this hub :)

      @Rosie2010, thanks for stopping by and liking the hub :)

    • Rosie2010 profile image

      Rosie Rose 

      7 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Hiya Spider Girl, WOW! So many great suggestions! Very helpful indeed! I love it!

      Have a nice day!

      Rosie

    • Tammy L profile image

      Tammy L 

      7 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

      I knew some of the foods you mentioned here were good for helping a person relax. I did not know about the nuts or especially the dark chocolate. I have a food allergy to tomatoes but I'm sure I can leave those out of any soups. Thank you for writing such a useful, advice filled hub. Great writer!

    • Spider Girl profile imageAUTHOR

      Spider Girl 

      7 years ago from the Web

      @Ingenira, thanks for stopping by & liking the hub :)

      @Stephanie Henjel, I'm glad you enjoyed reading the hub :)

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      7 years ago from USA

      This hub had lots of good suggestions and good information on why these foods make us feel better. Thanks! I enjoyed reading it.

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 

      7 years ago

      Good list of suggestions.

    • Spider Girl profile imageAUTHOR

      Spider Girl 

      7 years ago from the Web

      @barryrutherford thanks for stopping by!

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      7 years ago from Queensland Australia

      being a student I know exact;y what you mean. I lie all th efoods on your list for those lactose intolerent they could go for soy milk in moderation like all foods of course...

    • Spider Girl profile imageAUTHOR

      Spider Girl 

      7 years ago from the Web

      Thanks for liking cmuckley :)

    • cmuckley profile image

      cmuckley 

      7 years ago

      Great info, especially in this time when people are so stressed out over so many things.

    • Spider Girl profile imageAUTHOR

      Spider Girl 

      7 years ago from the Web

      Thanks elayne001 for stopping by and my pleasure you enjoyed my hub :) Soup is my all-time fave relaxing food, don't you see how much you feel relaxed after taking a bowl full of steaming chicken soup? Green tea is another beverage I love to take occasionally!

    • elayne001 profile image

      Elayne 

      7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      I enjoyed your hub on relaxing foods. I like soup and herbal tea when I want to relax. I also love nuts and cheese.

    • Spider Girl profile imageAUTHOR

      Spider Girl 

      7 years ago from the Web

      Thanks for stopping by Princessa, my sis is also lactose-intolerant and she rarely takes in any milk-products too. Soy milk is a nice alternative but you've to be quite beware of raising estrogen levels in your body. Yes, nuts are my fave snack -I feel my best when I keep taking them!

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      7 years ago from France

      Love them all except for the milk (I am intolerant), good to know that on top of being tasty they help to relax. I know I always feel good after a piece of cheese and some nuts!

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