Does uncertainty stress you out? Then make sure fish stays on the menu while planning stay at home meals. Basic research suggests the omega-3 fatty acids might help you feel less frazzled. French researchers fed rats a diet supplemented with fish oil for six months. Compared to those on a control diet, the omega-3 fed rats had 29% lower levels of stress hormones in their blood. They were less jumpy — 50% less likely to startle — and exhibited 57% less stress behaviors (they self-groomed less than the control group).

Why might this be? Scientists speculate that chronic stress actually depletes the brain of certain fatty acids that constitute fundamental component of neurons. This in turn might inhibit communication between brain cells, making it harder for neurons to repair damage or neutralize oxidation (think rust). If you manage stress with a martini, go for moderation, as research posits an inverse relationship between alcohol intake and omega-3 levels.

Lower levels of omega-3 make you more susceptible not just to stress — but also to dry eyes, age-related hearing loss, joint problems, heart issues, and even some cancers. Indeed, research even links more omega-3 fatty acids to higher test scores and increased fertility. Top sources of omega-3 include salmon, black cod, sardines, flounder, chia seeds and walnuts. We love this wild salmon and bean stew.

First Published December 2012