Feeling stressed? Get some exercise! It’s one of nature’s most underutilized activities and perhaps one of the most effective and natural stress reducers. Studies consistently indicate that exercise is a helpful tool for alleviating stress and improving overall mood.  However, exercise is only one component of a healthy lifestyle. Your diet also plays an important role in how your body reacts to stress. While a general healthy diet devoid of processed foods is ideal for promoting good health, some foods are better than others in the way they combat stress. Here are the top 10 best stress-relieving foods that can easily be incorporated into any diet.
1. Dark Chocolate
Commonly seen as a comfort food, chocolate’s sweet and bold flavors are enjoyed by millions of people every day. It turns out that science actually supports chocolate as a stress-relieving, mood-boosting food. Recent human studies have demonstrated that chocolate is a beneficial food that may be helpful for reducing the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines. One study found that participants, who rated themselves as being highly stressed, experienced a significant drop in stress hormone levels following a two-week dark-chocolate eating period. The amount of dark chocolate consumed during this study was 1.4 ounces per day, or a little over half a pound per week.  Make sure you choose one that’s organic and extremely low in sugar!
One of the physiological symptoms of stress is hypertension, or high blood pressure.  The abundance of alpha-Linolenic acid and linoleum acid in walnuts have shown some effectiveness in reducing blood pressure.   A 2010 study also found polyunsaturated fatty acids, a type of fat found in walnuts, helpful for promoting normal circulation and cardiovascular response to acute stress. 
High in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is often considered a brain food. There is also some research to suggest that salmon has the ability to reduce metabolic stress. One study found that omega-3 fatty acids, which are readily-available in salmon, reduced cortisol levels in men who were experiencing stress and anxiety.  Cortisol is a stress hormone that is increased in the body during times of psychological and physical stress. This hormone, when produced in excess, has been commonly associated with uncontrolled weight gain.
Salmon also contains vitamin D, much more than other types of fish. Vitamin D3, which is often manufactured by the body in response to safe sunlight exposure, is important for a number of physiological mechanisms within the body, including managing mood  and protecting against the effects of stress.  During times of stress, the body’s stores of vitamin D typically fall, increasing the need for this valuable nutrient. 
Similar to salmon, garlic inhibits cortisol levels, thereby preventing the toll stress often takes on the body. Sulfuric metabolites in garlic, such as allicin, have been associated with healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and cardiovascular protection. 
Fresh or dried, figs offer a potent source of essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. As a bioavailable source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium, figs offer nutrients necessary for maintaining healthy blood pressure and muscle function. The antioxidants in figs have the potential for protecting against oxidative stress, a type of stress that is facilitated by diet, pollution, and tobacco use.
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