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Stress levels can soar when you overbook your life with work and social activities. That’s when many people turn to fast food and vending machines for a little nourishment. After all, it takes time and effort to eat healthy.

You might be surprised to know that there are a group of “super foods” that can fight hunger and stress and take very little to no preparation before eating. These unique foods can help to balance blood sugar and calm emotional responses that may increase your stress levels.

These helpful foods can be eaten raw or added to meals you’ve prepared to get the most out of their natural stress-relieving powers.

Go Green

When you think of the difference in what fast food and junk food do to your body, you should be even more impressed by what leafy green vegetables do for your body. Leafy greens such as spinach contain folate – a nutrient which produces a chemical called dopamine – which causes feelings of calm and pleasure in the brain.

Studies clearly show that those people who consumed large amounts of folate in their diets suffered much less depression symptoms than those who consumed the least. This is true especially in middle-aged to elderly people participating in the studies.

Toss leafy greens in a salad or cook them lightly by sautéing or boiling. You’ll lower your risk of depression while doing your body a big favor by consuming the healthy nutrients found in all leafy green veggies.

Today, all types and flavors of greens can be found at your local supermarket. It’s also healthy and relieves stress if you grow your own. If you don’t have a garden space you can choose from methods such as container or hydroponic gardening.

While you may not think of greens as a “comfort” food, it actually does have more of a lasting comfort effect than fast foods or rich, sugary goods. Only a cup of spinach gives you almost half of your daily requirements of magnesium – the essential mineral that helps balance cortisol and stimulates feelings of well-being.

Sneak some spinach in your eggs for a delicious omelet, sauté or steam it with some garlic and be sure to add it (or lettuce) to sandwiches. Kale “chips” are a healthy alternative to other snacks.

Simply wash and dry the kale leaves, arrange them on a baking sheet, sprinkle some garlic or other herbs over them and bake until crispy. The kids will never know they’re eating something healthy for them.

A Handful of Berries Chases the Blues Away

When you’re stressed, the best relief can come from a food you may not expect – deep-purple-hued, delicious berries. Blueberries, especially, have the power to provide antioxidants and phytonutrients to help your body fight stress-causing free-radicals.

Free radicals are produced by the brain and can cause serious damage to your body. They’re sometimes caused by viruses and other bacteria entering the body, but environmental factors such as herbicides, pollution, radiation and cigarette smoke are also reasons they may disrupt your body function.

Your body desperately needs antioxidants to fight these life-threatening body invaders which may accumulate rapidly as you age. Studies show that people who eat blueberries experience an intense boost in free-radical killers.

These nutrients in berries also provide a boost to your immunes system, which can also counter stress. Besides the medical problems that stress can cause, you may also suffer from depression and mood swings.

Stress can become a vicious cycle that’s hard to break free from and diet can play a huge part in relieving stress – or making it worse. If you eat the stress-busting foods such as berries on a regular basis, you can help balance your physical and mental well-being.

The purple-hued berries such as blueberries and blackberries get their color from anthocyanins – pigments which give the berries their deep color. They are antioxidants that act like a medicine to the brain, helping cognitive functioning, moods and even body and limb coordination.

Managing stress by adding some superfoods such as berries can be an effective preventative measure to keep side effects of stress at bay. Add delicious berries to your cereal in the morning or to yogurt for a healthy snack and ensure your daily dose of this stress-busting food.

The Beauty of Beets

Beets are coming back as a food-trend and being used in many different ways to ensure we get them in our diet plan. The arsenal of nutrients found in beets has an extremely beneficial effect on our nervous and immune systems.

Packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties called betaine, beets also help to detoxify the body by stimulating liver cells and cleansing and protecting bile ducts, which carry waste through the system.

Betaine is an amino acid which acts as an antidepressant and stimulates the production of dopamine (the neurotransmitter which controls the pleasure points in our brains). An added bonus to consuming beets on a regular basis is the caloric count – approximately 40 calories per (average size) beet.

Beets are stocked with nutrients we sometimes lack, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron, fiber, niacin, biotin and iron. Together, these nutrients help increase our levels of dopamine.

Low levels of dopamine cause us to be sluggish in our motor movements and may affect sleep cycles caused by stress. Recently, low dopamine levels have been connected to restless leg syndrome – the disorder that occurs often in seniors and keeps us awake at night.

Lowering blood pressure is also a benefit of beets. Some studies indicate that beets may help increase energy levels and stamina when you need it most. If you’ve never tried beets or beet juice, you’ll be amazed at all the ways you can use them in recipes or simply cut them up and include them in a leafy green salad.

Check out beet recipes and ideas online or in cookbooks and begin to use this super food to boost your stress-reducing dopamine and nutrient levels.

Go Garlic

The earliest recorded history of the use of garlic to boost health and relieve stress was made by the Egyptians. They fed it to their slaves and other laborers to boost their strength and stamina during the decades the pyramids were being built.

Now we know for sure that garlic is a huge asset to the immune system and can help prevent cancer, heart disease and lower blood pressure. Antioxidants are highly concentrated in this super food and can combat the damage to our bodies caused by free radicals (body pollutants).

Free radicals are now believed to contribute to the development of life-threatening diseases. Garlic contains the antibacterial and anti-fungal component called allicin and naturopathic practitioners often recommend it for depression and anxiety.

Some little known facts about the benefits of garlic include:

Chop or crush the garlic and let it sit for awhile before cooking so the allinase enzymes contained in the garlic will better preserve its cancer-preventive properties.

Allicin (a sulfer compound) may help improve your iron metabolism. A protein (ferroportin) allows a passageway in the cell membrane to store iron and exit the cell when the body needs it.

Garlic is a good source for selenium, a trace mineral also present in soil. Selenium is imperative for the body to increase immunity, protect against free radical damage, as an anti-inflammatory and to maintain a healthy and vibrant metabolism.

Garlic may also play a role in fertility of male and female and in preventing autoimmune, cancer and thyroid diseases.

You should include garlic in your diet plan on a daily basis. At least half a clove in your own food portion should suffice – but when used in recipes, use at least one or two for maximum benefit.

Use garlic in whole clove form, raw, chopped or pressed. Be sure to add it at the end of your recipe’s cooking cycle to derive the maximum benefits and flavor. Garlic can transform any dish into an aromatic and highly flavorful meal, boost your mood and counteract your high stress levels.

Sweet Potatoes

Carbs and sweets can cause powerful urges and wreak havoc with your system. The two cravings are what you’re bound to reach for when you’re under a lot of stress, but the few moments of satisfaction aren’t worth the harm they can do to your body and your stress level.

Sweet potatoes are a great way to reduce the urge for carbs and sweets while consuming a well-known super food packed with vitamins such as beta-carotene and fiber. They can help your body process carbs slowly and steadily without causing mood swings and cravings.

As a snack, you can’t beat the stress-reducing power of sweet potatoes. Rather than a short rush of sugar (then, the crash that’s sure to occur), sweet potatoes treat your body to an array of nutrients that have the power to benefit your body rather than harm it.

Sweet potatoes also make you feel full for a longer period of time, reducing the need to binge or eat foods you don’t need or really want. Among the benefits of sweet potatoes is their high vitamin content.

Vitamin A (beta-carotene), manganese, pantothenic acid, Vitamin C, copper and Vitamin B6 are all contained in sweet potatoes. They’re also a great source for dietary fiber, niacin, potassium, Vitamin B1 and B2 and phosphorus.

Sweet potatoes are inexpensive, easy to cook and eat and make a delicious side dish or meal. The health benefits are numerous and include many for stress relief. Vitamin D can help those who may not receive adequate sunlight.

Vitamin D is a hormone and a vitamin and can keep SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) at bay. SAD often affects those who don’t get enough sunlight and can cause our energy levels and moods to suffer. It also benefits the thyroid gland – which in turn, affects our weight and moods.

Iron is another component found in sweet potatoes. Iron provides energy and stimulates production of white and red blood cells, helping us resist the effects of stress on the body.

Magnesium is also necessary for our bodies and helps relieve stress by providing us with magnesium – a natural anti-stress and relaxation mineral. As important as it is to our overall well-being, it’s estimated that about 80% of America’s population is magnesium deficient.

Sweet potatoes are also versatile. You can bake, slice and grill, puree, steam or roast them or even add them to your leafy green salads and soups. Pureed, they can be an excellent addition to smoothies.

If you’re concerned about your stress levels and find it difficult to control your weight when you reach for junk food during your highest times of stress, try the sweet, yet healthy, snack or meal of these five stress-fighting superfoods.

Unfortunately, today’s population has moved away from nature’s way to fight stress in favor of the fast and crave-satisfying junk foods. Most plant-based foods contain the best stress-reducing components of raw vitamins and minerals, so those should be your food choices when you’re trying to fight the onset of stress.

In today’s world, stressful days are the norm, rather than the exception. Rather than resort to anxiety and depression pills to fight the stressful life you have, reach for the five super foods explained in this report.

These foods will help take the edge off a stressful day and provide a broad spectrum of vitamins and nutrients to help your body, increase your energy and calm your mind. Fortunately, all of these foods are inexpensive and readily available at your local farmer’s market or food store.

It’s always best to choose organically-grown foods when you can – or grow your own. There are many methods today that let you plant and harvest in small spaces – or even indoors.

Find a way to get these five great superfoods into your diet plan each day and let go of the harmful foods that cause stress, fatigue, mood swings and anxiety.