illustration of a chia seed parfait

3 Plant-Based Foods to Improve Stress Management

Editor’s note: Talk to your healthcare provider about your particular situation before starting any new supplements or diets.

Are you stressed about your stress levels? Managing daily life with Parkinson's disease can feel like the weight of the world. If only those who say "just don’t stress" could wave their magic wand to make it all go away!

Instead, one must resort to stress management tactics such as journaling, meditation, exercise, and more. As a dietitian, I often hear from my clients that their mood improves with strategic nutrition choices. Check out these fun-try foods to help decrease stress and promote overall wellness while living with Parkinson's.

Chia seeds

While chia pets may make you smile, eating chia seeds can do wonders for your mood due to their omega-3 fatty acid content. Although this nutrient is primarily known for its heart-healthy benefits, its anti-inflammatory properties may help people stress less. Specifically, omega-3 fatty acids help decrease oxidative stress accumulation, positively impacting serotonin and dopamine production.1

Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids may also decrease the release of inflammatory cytokines that negatively affect the fear and anxiety-driven areas of the brain. So, embrace this powerful nutrient to help kick stress to the curb. To get started, check out these easy ways to incorporate this plant-based source of omega-3s!1

Chia pudding

One of my favorite breakfasts! Simply mix 3 tbsp of chia seeds with half a cup of your favorite low-fat milk or calcium and a vitamin D fortified plant-based milk. Then, give it a swirl and leave it in the fridge overnight. Once ready to eat, customize your creation with berries, nuts, honey, or fruit compote. Yum!

Adding to smoothies

Slurp your way to a stress-free lifestyle! But, if you hate the possibility of a stray chia seed getting stuck in your teeth, opt for a ground alternative. It’s a convenient way to improve your mood while enjoying a nutritionally balanced breakfast.

Energy bars

Create homemade fuel by combining rolled oats, chia seeds, nut butter, honey, and chocolate chips. Form your mixture into your desired size and pop them into the freezer. They defrost in minutes, making this easy breakfast a stress-free way to start the day. Bonus: Chia seeds add much-needed fiber to the diet!

Dark chocolate

There are no surprises here! After all, chocolate seemingly makes any stressful situation feel better. It’s all thanks to its magnesium content. This powerful nutrient helps decrease the neurotransmission of cortisol – the body’s primary stress hormone.2

Without magnesium-rich foods, the body must pull from its natural reserve, possibly increasing the risk of deficiency or insufficiency during a stressful period. However, this ultimately stimulates a vicious cycle since poor magnesium status is equally associated with increased stress. So, go to the dark side (of chocolate) to brighten your thoughts by preserving your magnesium stores.2

Along with its cortisol-reducing abilities, magnesium may also influence mood by increasing the expression of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF). BNDF may also protect dopaminergic neurons. This may be helpful for people with Parkinson's, as it is believed that a lack of dopamine causes the disease. Talk about a brain-boosting nutrient.3,4

Be sure to opt for high cacao content to help put the stress to rest. But, if greater than 70 percent cacao is not palatable to your tastebuds, start light and work your way to stronger concentrations. Then, embrace your inner chocoholic by incorporating this tasty goodness in smoothies, yogurt parfaits, oatmeal, and more!

Nutritional yeast

This yeast is a stress-fighting beast! It’s a plant-based ingredient that stems from an inactivated form of fermented yeast uniquely characterized by its nutty and cheese-like taste. Although nutritional yeast may be delicate in appearance, its B vitamin content packs a mood-boosting punch.

In one-eighth cup of nutritional yeast, there is 680 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin B6 – a nutrient known to impact serotonin regulation. Plus, evidence shows that elevated B vitamin status may help decrease homocysteine levels, which is inversely associated with anxiety.5-7

So, experiment with this faux-cheesy sensation to improve stress management and overall mood. Add it to roasted vegetables. Sprinkle it on pasta. Use it as a nutrient-dense breading. The possibilities are endless! So, turn that frown upside down by embracing the delicious taste and calming powers of nutritional yeast.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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