5 Foods to Help You Survive Short Days and Holiday Stress

There's no such thing as a chill pill, but some foods contain body-boosting nutrients that help soothe stressed-out nerves. Getting enough B vitamins, folate, and omega-3 fatty acids can help ward off depression. Magnesium helps muscles relax; stimulates production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that eases anxiety and nervousness; and helps you fall asleep. And antioxidants help fight the damage that cortisol does to brain cells and memory.

An emphasis on the following foods will help your body mellow existing anxiety and set you on the right path for overall health. (Talk to your doctor about proper dosages if you take supplements, since it is possible to get too much of a good thing.)

Vitamin B6

Best Foods

Avocados, baked potatoes (with skin), bananas, chickpeas, yellow-fin tuna, steamed green beans

Why It Helps

Stress depletes B6, which helps produce serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter.

Green Beans with Hazelnuts and Gorgonzola

2 pounds green beans, stem ends trimmed
2 tablespoons nut oil, such as hazelnut, almond, or walnut
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 ounces Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup roasted blanched hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

1. Steam green beans until crisp-tender, 4 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with oil and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with Gorgonzola and nuts.

Related: No-Mess One-Bowl Desserts: 12 Recipes for Lazy Bakers

Vitamin B12

Best Foods

Clams, milk (fat-free), plain yogurt (fat-free), salmon, sardines, chicken

Why It Helps

Along with other B vitamins, B12 helps form GABA, a calming neurotransmitter.

Steamed Clams in Garlic Saffron Broth

Large pinch of saffron
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 dozen littleneck clams
1 tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Pinch of freshly ground pepper

1. Crumble saffron into 1 cup of boiling water. Set aside to steep.

2. Heat olive oil in a large, shallow saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots, and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add wine, and stir to loosen any bits from pan. Add reserved saffron broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and add clams, chopped tomato, and half the chopped parsley. Stir to combine. Cover, and let steam until clams are opened, 10 to 12 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and pepper, and serve immediately.

Related: 15 Kitchen Shortcuts That Will Change the Way You Cook

Folate (Folic Acid)

Best Foods

Asparagus, chickpeas, lentils, oatmeal, orange juice, dark leafy greens

Why It Helps

Folic acid helps make dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure.

Roasted Asparagus and Eggs

1 medium thick asparagus bunch, tough ends removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
4 large eggs
2 ounces shaved parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet with a rim, toss asparagus with oil. Season with salt. Bake until asparagus is lightly browned and tender, 15 to 18 minutes (timing will vary depending upon thickness of asparagus).

2. In a small saucepan, cook balsamic vinegar and sugar over medium-high heat until syrupy and reduced to 3 tablespoons, about 6 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large skillet with 2 inches of water to a simmer over medium heat. Add cider vinegar and season with salt. Break one egg at a time into a cup, then tip cup into pan. Simmer until whites are set and yolks are soft but slightly set, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spatula, scoop out eggs one at a time and drain on paper towels. With a paring knife, trim edges.

4. Divide asparagus among four plates and drizzle with reduced balsamic. Top with shaved Parmesan and an egg.


Best Foods

Almonds, amaranth, spinach, sunflower seeds, tofu, wild rice

Why It Helps

Stress depletes magnesium, which stimulates the production of GABA and helps make dopamine.

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate and Avocado

1 pomegranate
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 bunches flat leaf spinach, stems trimmed, well washed and dried
2 tablespoons roasted, hulled sunflower seeds
1 Hass avocado

1. Halve pomegranate lengthwise and seed. Working in a bowl of cold water, use your hands to separate seeds from membrane. Membrane will float to the top; discard. Scoop out pomegranate seeds and pat dry.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons lemon juice, mustard, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Toss spinach, sunflower seeds, and pomegranate seeds with dressing in bowl. Transfer to a serving platter.

3. Halve avocado and remove pit. Scoop out flesh and thinly slice lengthwise; drizzle with remaining lemon juice. Transfer to plate and arrange salad on top. Serve immediately.

Vitamin C

Best Foods

Broccoli, brussels sprouts, orange juice, red and green peppers, strawberries

Why It Helps

Vitamin C boosts your immune system and fights brain-cell damage resulting from constant exposure to cortisol

Asian Steak Salad with Spicy Vinaigrette

For the Marinade
Juice and grated zest of 1 lime
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 scallion, white and light-green parts only, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds

For the Salad
12 ounces flank steak
Freshly ground black pepper
1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, julienned
1 head Napa cabbage, tough outer leaves removed, julienned
1 papaya, peeled, seeds removed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, packed
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, packed
1 cup bean sprouts (optional)

For the Dressing
Spicy Vinaigrette

For the Garnish
2 tablespoons chopped toasted peanuts

1. Prepare the marinade: Place lime juice, zest, ginger, garlic, and scallion in a small bowl, and whisk to combine. Place steak in a shallow dish; cover with marinade, turning to completely coat. Transfer to refrigerator, and marinate 1 hour.

2. Remove steak from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking; let sit at room temperature. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove steak from marinade, and season with black pepper. Sear steak until browned on the outside and cooked to desired doneness inside, 5 to 6 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to cutting board; let cool slightly, and thinly slice on the bias.

3. In a large bowl, combine red bell pepper, carrots, cabbage, papaya, cilantro, mint, and bean sprouts, if using. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, and toss well to combine. Arrange vegetables and steak on four serving plates. Garnish each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped peanuts.

More from Martha Stewart:
Quick, One-Pot Meal Ideas To Feed the Whole Family
35 Beyond Delicious No-Bake Dessert Recipes
36 Dinners You Can Make in Just 15 Minutes!
What's Your Turkey Personality?

This colorful salad packs a wallop of nutrients. No bad mood for you!