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6 Foods That Can Help Keep Stress at Bay This Holiday Season


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The holidays may be the most wonderful time of the year, but they can also the most stressful — but they don’t have to be. With these six foods, you’ll be able to sail through the holidays stress-free. Keep reading about the foods you should be keeping handy this holiday season. 

Chocolate elevates the hug hormone

Stress relief can be sweet! A daily dose of 2 oz. of dark chocolate or 10 oz. of hot cocoa helps you feel relaxed and content for 2 1/2 hours— and enjoying the treat once daily cuts your risk of chronic stress by as much as 45%, say University of Pittsburgh researchers. Cocoa’s soothing secret? It contains two compounds (anandamide and phenylethylamine) that rev your brain’s production of calming oxytocin, aka the “hug hormone.”

Beef soothes the brain’s anxiety center

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your too-long holiday to-do list, a daily 4-oz. serving of beef could help you feel 35% more at ease within 72 hours, according to Australian researchers. That’s because beef’s mix of protein and B vitamins works to calm the anxiety center of the brain (the amygdala), making you less likely to become rattled by all the hustle and bustle.

Peanuts prompt the release of dopamine

Always on the run? Make peanuts a go-to snack and you’ll feel 55% less edgy and stressed even on your most hectic days, reveal researchers at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. Peanuts are rich in healthy plant fats that increase your level of the “can-do” brain chemical dopamine. Another plus: The protein in nuts gives you a much-needed energy boost!

Curry boosts the bliss hormone

A daily sprinkle of curry powder (1/2 tsp.) will have you feeling 38% more upbeat within seven days, Indian researchers say. Thanks goes to curry’s mix of ginger, coriander, cumin, and turmeric— antioxidant-rich spices that spur the release of the bliss hormone (norepinephrine). Tip: Find premade curry dishes in your supermarket’s frozen food section.

Edamame stops cortisol surges

Calm jangled nerves in 15 minutes simply by nibbling 1 cup of edamame—and snacking /2 on the tiny treasures daily slashes chronic anxiety by 37% in one week. That’s the word from British researchers, who say edamame is brimming with potassium, magnesium and isoflavones—nutrients that soothe the adrenal glands to tamp down the production of the stress hormone cortisol.

Sweet potatoes rev serotonin production

They’re packed with inulin— a type of fiber that the good bacteria in your digestive tract use to produce mood-boosting serotonin. No wonder Australian researchers say women who add 1/2 cup of sweet potatoes to their daily diet report feeling 33% happier.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine. 

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