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6 Tension-Taming Foods That Ease Stress and Taste Great

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Feeling overwhelmed? These nutrient-rich picks will ease fall stress to keep you peaceful and happy.  

Vanilla quiets the brain’s anxiety center.

The sweet aroma of vanilla calms the brain region that processes emotions (the amygdala) — and this promotes a sense of relaxation in as little as two minutes, Canadian researchers report. Enjoying any vanilla-scented treat will do the trick. Or for an on-the-go option, slowly breath in the aroma of vanilla essential oil.

Beef soothes overworked adrenal glands.

If your seemingly endless fall to-do list has you feeling tense and tired, adding a four-ounce serving of beef (about the size of a deck of cards) to your daily diet can help you enjoy calm energy within 72 hours. Australian researchers explain that beef is rich in vitamin B12, zinc, and selenium — a trio of nutrients that nourishes and heals overworked adrenal glands, tamping down their production of the stress hormone cortisol.

Potatoes boost stores of the anti-stress mineral.

Spuds are a top source of potassium—a mineral that absorbs readily into the bloodstream and works to relax the central nervous system. The result: You’ feel less edgy and irritable within 30 minutes of your first bite, report Yale University researchers. For the biggest benefit, eat the skins—they contain the highest concentration of this calming mineral.

Mint fosters Zen brain waves.

For instant ahh when tension mounts, savor a peppermint-flavored candy or another minty treat. According to British researchers, the taste of peppermint prompts the brain to release alpha waves — electrical impulses that produce a more upbeat mood in as little as three minutes.

Coffee ups levels of calming dopamine.

Turns out your morning joe does more than wake you up — sipping two cups a day (regular or decaf) also cuts your risk of anxiety by 42 percent, say scientists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Credit coffee’s chlorogenic and caffeic acids, which stimulate the release of the mood-elevating brain chemical dopamine.

Apples boost feel-good endorphins.

Gala, Honeycrisp, and McIntosh apples are in season now — and noshing on one (raw or cooked into a sweet treat) reduces stress for up to 76 percent of people in five minutes, say scientists at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago. The reason? Natural fruit acids in apples stimulate the release of endorphins — hormones that generate feelings of contentment.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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