Stress has become a modern-day phenomenon, and there are very few of us who don't need a little bit of support when it comes to helping to unwind. Relaxing, simple activities like reading a great book, walking in the park, having a digital timeout, as well as creating an idyllic pre-bedtime ritual should be considered essential day-to-day practices that will all support a less stressed head.
Of course, less of the white, fried, and dyed foods, alcohol, and caffeine will also have a positive effect on your emotions too. But there are also foods that can positively encourage feel-good chemicals in the brain. Try adding them into your dishes and see if you don't feel more calm and collected already.
Avocados could be considered one of the best stress-busting foods—containing essential nutrients such as pantothenic acid, magnesium, vitamin C, and B vitamins that all help to support the adrenals, which manage cortisol, our major stress hormone. Smash onto sourdough toast and you have an added boost of natural probiotics from the fermented grains that support digestion. A healthier gut means a happier mind!
Blueberries contain anthocyanins that give them the deep purple color, and it's these phytonutrients that support the production of dopamine in the brain, critical for mood and, as such, reducing feelings of anxiety.
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are high in magnesium that can tend to be low when we are stressed. These seeds also contain vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that helps to prevent free-radical damage and stress to the body.
Leafy greens are rich in antioxidants that help protect the brain from free-radical damage as well as being an excellent source of B vitamins that are rapidly depleted when we are stressed. Greens are also a good source of magnesium that helps to support the nervous system for a calmer mood while also maintaining consistent energy levels.
Beets contains betaine, which stimulates the production of S-Adenosyl methionine, or SAM-e, which is essential in the production of dopamine, one of our feel-good neurotransmitters. The nitric oxide also contained in beets supports better blood flow that maintains sharper concentration and focus.
Bananas are a brilliant plant-based source of tryptophan that acts as a precursor to serotonin, and they contain B6, which helps with this conversion. Plus, because they are a good source of magnesium, this also helps to manage stress.
Wild-caught salmon is a high source of omega-3 oils that help to nourish and improve flexibility of cell membranes for enhanced brain neurotransmitter activity. This supports better cognitive processes such as memory and concentration, and prevents neurodegenerative conditions. Omega-3s also act as anti-inflammatories, which also reduces the physical load of stress on the body.
Fermented foods such as unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchee, tempeh, kefir, and miso all contain naturally high levels of probiotics that are generated during the fermentation process and this supports a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. Since around 90 percent of our serotonin is in the gut, it's important to maintain a less stressed gut if you want to feel calmer overall.
Cacao contains mood-boosting substances such as theobromine, anandamide, and phenylethlyamine that all enhance positive brain chemicals while simultaneously helping to reduce stress hormones. Plus, it's downright delicious!
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