When we find ourselves struggling, we often turn to comfort food to help us relax and forget about our stress. But food does more than just distract us from our overwhelming to-do list. Certain meals can actually trigger chemical reactions in the body that both lessen anxiety and help put the brain at ease. The next time you feel overwhelmed, resist the urge to reach for a bag of chips and instead try supplementing your diet with these eight helpful foods.
Avocados contain B vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin. People who are deficient in these vitamins often experience increased levels of anxiety and stress, making it essential to incorporate avocados into your diet. This fruit also has plenty of vitamin E, positively affecting vision, cognition, and healthy skin.
Chickpeas contain large amounts of tryptophan, an essential amino acid humans can only get from their diet. Tryptophan provides relief from anxiety and depression, which means adding chickpeas to a fresh salad or snacking on hummus is a good way to help boost your mood. Just 1 cup of chickpeas also provides 70% of the recommended daily folate intake, a B vitamin tied to mood regulation and healthy cell function.
Whether scrambled, boiled, or fried, eggs are a great way to supplement your diet with choline, a nutrient many people lack. Studies have shown that high levels of choline are inversely proportional to anxiety levels in humans, meaning that adding eggs and other choline-rich foods like liver, fish, and dairy to your diet may have mood-boosting effects.
Fish oils, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, are critical for proper mental and physical function. Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce anxiety by lowering inflammation and cortisol levels throughout the body, which in turn may help lower the risk of developing depression-like symptoms. Fish with high levels of these fatty acids include tuna, salmon, anchovies, swordfish, and trout.
Kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are leafy vegetables that help promote brain health. These greens contain high amounts of vitamin C, which helps eliminate excess cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone. They contain polyphenols, which act as antioxidants and reduce digestive discomfort.
Matcha powder is a vibrant green tea extract commonly found in Japanese teas and pastries. Matcha contains high levels of an amino acid known as L-theanine, which research shows can positively impact the brain’s mental alertness in as little as 30 minutes. Many American cafes now serve matcha, but you can also purchase matcha powder from the grocery store and online.
Not only is oatmeal a powerful, cholesterol-lowering food, but it’s also a complex carbohydrate. These carbohydrates encourage the brain to produce serotonin, a soothing neurotransmitter that lowers stress and anxiety. Oatmeal is also high in fiber, which keeps your blood sugar stable and prevents potential negative mood swings.
Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamin C to help reduce the body’s cortisol levels. They also contain high levels of magnesium and vitamin B3, which reduce fatigue and help manage the body’s natural response to stress hormones by encouraging muscle relaxation.
Featured Image Credit: Tempura/ iStock