Chocolate may be able to lower stress and improve mood. Experts aren’t sure how it achieves this, but it may be due to its high tryptophan content. Tryptophan is a substance that the body uses to make ‘happy’ hormones like serotonin. As it’s dark chocolate that’s linked to improving stress, remember to choose a bar that’s at least 70% cocoa. But only eat around 1 to 3g a day as dark chocolate still contains added fats and sugar.
Bananas contain plenty of vitamin B6, which may lower stress and reduce tiredness. Bananas are also a source of the feel-good hormone dopamine. Your dopamine levels tend to drop when you’re stressed, so try eating a banana to help balance your mood during stressful times.
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol are higher when you’re thirsty, so drink water throughout the day to prevent them from spiking. Most people should drink 6 to 8 glasses daily. If you don’t really like the taste of water, try sparkling water or adding a slice of lemon or lime.
Passion flower is a vine plant that can be drunk as a tea or taken as a tablet. Some research suggests that it may reduce anxiety and insomnia by increasing levels of a relaxing brain chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). However, more research is needed to determine just how safe and effective passion flower is.
Speak to a doctor before trying passion flower so they can make sure it’s safe for you to take. Don’t take more than the recommended dose of passion flower and avoid it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Passion flower can cause drowsiness, dizziness and confusion, so don’t take it alongside sedatives.
Eating carbohydrates triggers the release of the ‘happy’ chemical serotonin. Complex carbohydrates are better for your stress levels than simple carbohydrates because they take longer to digest. This helps to keep your blood sugar levels in check and provides a steady supply of serotonin throughout the day.
Base your meals on complex carbohydrates like wholegrain bread, pasta, rice or oats.
Leafy green vegetables
Leafy green vegetables like Brussels sprouts, chard, asparagus, broccoli, kale and spinach contain a vitamin called folate. This helps your brain to produce the hormones serotonin and dopamine, both of which can improve mood. Leafy green vegetables also contain magnesium, which can help to regulate blood pressure and cortisol levels.
Vitamins for stress
Some vitamins, like vitamin C, have stress-busting properties. Simply add more citrus fruits like oranges, lemons or grapefruit to your diet. Talk to a doctor before taking vitamin C supplements.
Certain B vitamins may also lower stress, so eat leafy green vegetables, dairy foods and legumes (beans and pulses), which are all good sources of B vitamins.
Stress-relieving essential oils
Essential oils are a popular stress remedy. Lavender can promote relaxation and reduce symptoms of insomnia. You can rub the oil into your skin after mixing it with a carrier oil, light a stress-relieving candle or use a diffuser to fill your room with its scent.
While the natural remedies suggested in this article can help to relieve stress, always see a doctor if you are worried about your stress levels.