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10 Foods to Reduce Stress Levels

These delicious foods are packed with nutrients that help you keep calm

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    Eat to beat stress

    What you eat has a lot to do with how you feel. "When you're under stress, you may crave a doughnut, but it will only make you feel tired and grumpy," says Tufts University neuropsychologist Tammy Scott. "You'll feel better if you choose foods that improve your mood and help you feel calm." Here are 10 foods that have the nutrients that do just that.

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    Winter squash

    Omega-3 fatty acids are important for brain health, as well as heart health. All types of winter squash — including fall favorites such as pumpkin, butternut squash and acorn squash — are rich in the omega-3s that help protect against the devastating affect of chronic stress, which damages the region of the brain responsible for memory.

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    Red bell peppers

    Although oranges are considered the go-to food for vitamin C, red bell peppers contain almost twice as much of this vital nutrient. "Vitamin C supports your immune system and helps to regulate levels of cortisol, the hormone your body releases when you're under stress," says Scott. Other C-rich foods: berries, cantaloupe, pineapple and (surprise!) cauliflower.

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    Almonds

    Almonds are packed with variety of nutrients that help the body de-stress, notes the Cleveland Clinic. These include vitamin E to improve immunity, B vitamins that decrease anxiety and omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium to keep levels of the stress hormone cortisol low. Aim for an ounce a day, about 23 nuts.

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    Avocados

    Nutrient-dense avocados are a good source of a family of B vitamins that provide critical nutrients affecting mood and memory. Some also help prevent anxiety, irritability and fatigue. "The B vitamins support the health of the nervous system," Scott says. An added benefit: High levels of potassium in avocados can help control blood pressure and lower the risk of stroke.

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    Black-eyed peas

    Eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day is said to bring good luck, but they do far more than that. Black-eyed peas are rich in nerve-soothing thiamine, which improves your body's ability to withstand stress. Too little thiamine contributes to irritability and fatigue, so keep levels topped up year-round with whole grains, peas and beans, poultry and nuts.

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    Dark leafy greens

    Spinach, romaine lettuce, kale and their cousins broccoli and cauliflower contain abundant amounts of folate, aka vitamin B9. Folate stimulates the production of dopamine, a brain chemical that soothes nerves and gives rise to a feeling of calm. High levels are associated with improved mood and alertness.

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    Salmon

    Salmon is a good source of vitamin B12a nutrient that keeps the nervous system in proper working order. Low levels can cause confusion, weakness, and difficulty thinking and reasoning, making it hard to cope with stress. B12 is found in meat, fish, poultry, milk and eggs, and in fortified grains.

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    Sweet potatoes

    Sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates that stimulate the brain to produce mood-boosting serotonin. They also contain magnesium, an antistress mineral. Bonus: Sweet potatoes are a rich source of the potassium that can help lower blood pressure. Other good choices to lift your spirits include whole grain breads, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, brown rice and lentils.

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    Beets

    Feeling anxious? Reach for a serving of magnesium-rich beets. Magnesium helps  increase levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that plays a major role in mood and happiness. A shortfall of serotonin can cause anxiety, fatigue, irritability and loss of energy. To preserve the nutrients in beets, don't overcook, simply roast or steam lightly.

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    Black tea

    Sipping a cup of black tea helps people de-stress more quickly than drinking a convincing fake tea substitute, according to University College London research published in the journalPsychopharmacology. Study participants who drank the real thing felt calmer after a stressful event and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol circulating in their blood than those served the ersatz brew.

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