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The holidays can be a time of fun, joy, and excitement with the festivities, decorations, and for many of us, time off to relax and recharge. The season can also bring mental and physical stress, be it traveling, spending time with family, and/or extra financial pressure to buy gifts. One way to reduce holiday stress is to choose foods wisely. What we eat has a profound effect on our mood, and can be helpful in lowering our stress levels. So take care of yourself and your loved ones during the holidays (and always!) by being mindful of the foods that most nourish our body. Cooking a variety of special foods is part of many holiday traditions, and by adding the stress busting foods below, you get some extra benefits!

Asparagus and Salmon Asparagus – Asparagus is a good source of folic acid, which produces serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for boosting mood and relaxation. This green stalky veggie is also high in folate, which is essential for keeping your cool.

Avocados – Avocados are a good source of healthy fat (monounsaturated) and potassium, which lowers blood pressure. They’re also a great source of potassium, containing twice as much as a banana. Increasing potassium intake is an ideal way to lower blood pressure, which spikes when we are stressed. Just 1/5 of a medium avocado (or 1 ounce) per day can do the trick.

Blueberries and Oranges – Both of these sweet and tasty fruits contain antioxidants, which counteract the effects of stress hormones like cortisol on your body. The vitamin C in oranges can also curb levels of cortisol.

Walnuts, Almonds, and Sunflower Seeds – These three powerhouse foods help lower blood pressure and are a good source of folate, which helps your body produce a pleasure-inducing brain chemical called dopamine. Just a small handful of nuts or seeds per day can help keep stress at bay.

Chamomile Tea – Some of the compounds in chamomile tea produce a calming effect and can reduce anxiety. The act of drinking tea in itself is relaxing. In addition to calming nerves, chamomile promotes sleep, so be mindful of when you’re drinking it so you don’t doze off in a meeting!

Ginger teaGinger – Ginger can aid in pain relief, including stress headaches. Ginger contains the antioxidant gingerol, which fights bad chemicals in our bodies that lead to psychological and physical stress. Ginger has also been found to help relieve an upset stomach, motion sickness, respiratory problems, and menstrual discomfort. Try adding chopped ginger to stir fries, or brewing fresh ginger tea!

Dark Chocolate – Chocolate lovers rejoice! High in flavonoids, which are known for their relaxing properties, dark chocolate also contains phenethylamine, a chemical that enhances your mood. Look for dark chocolate with least 50% cocoa. Keep in mind that chocolate contains caffeine, so aim for a no more than a few small squares per day.

Oatmeal – Oats are a complex carb that helps increase serotonin levels in the brain. With its heartiness and comfort, oatmeal is the perfect winter breakfast food! Add some fruit, nuts, and cinnamon for an extra special treat.

Spinach – Spinach and other dark, leafy greens contain magnesium, which improves your body’s response to stress, and may prevent migraine headaches. Being deficient in magnesium can contribute to irritability, indigestion, fatigue, and stress.

Salmon – Salmon and other fish containing omega-3 fatty acids can boost serotonin levels and limit the production of anxiety hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

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Community Suicide Prevention Coordinator

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