How Exactly Do Healthy Foods Reduce Stress?
"Stress negatively affects blood pressure and blood flow," Kuchan said. "There is a strong relationship between fluctuations in brain blood flow and brain health and these compounds over time."
Nutrients from healthy foods, Kuchan explained, can help improve blood flow in the body.
"Examples of nutrients that improve blood flow include omega-3s (EPA and DHA), vitamin E and polyphenols found in red wine, blueberries and dark chocolate," Kuchan said. "In this way, a healthy diet has a 'cascading effect' on brain health because as it improves blood flow, the delivery of key nutrients to the brain is also improved. Consistent with this, physical fitness is one of the strongest 'anti-cognitive decline' factors and it acts by maintaining healthy blood flow to the brain."
Omega-3s are found in fish like salmon and tuna and also provide anti-inflammatory effects, Kuchan explained. You can find vitamin E in foods like sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach and avocados.
Kuchan also mentioned that more recent studies are uncovering the stress-fighting effects of plant compounds.
"Like polyphenols and carotenoids found in foods like green leafy vegetables and bright colored peppers," he said.
Additionally, Kuchan also pointed to the growing body of research indicating a strong link between digestive health and the brain.
"Emerging research is now suggesting that the gut microbiome can influence the body, including the brain," he said. "The microbiome can be supported by consuming fiber-containing foods like beans, vegetables, cereals and yogurt."