This Morning Smoothie Is Packed With Stress-Fighting Ingredients
If you wake up some mornings feeling like you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders, you're not alone. In fact, you're most of us. Two out of three Americans are stressed out, according to a 2019 national poll by the American Psychiatric Association. Adults 18 to 34 years old are feeling the brunt of it, though it's safe to say just about everyone could use some help relaxing.
And staying calm is important because stress hurts. It takes a toll not just on your mental health but your physical health too, as the two are intertwined. So it's no surprise that something that nourishes you physically can also soothe your frayed nerves. This smoothie recipe is packed with ingredients that have stress-reducing properties and can be whipped up any time you need an extra serving of calm.
Mood-Boosting Stress-Busting Breakfast Smoothie
- 2 cups low-fat milk or nut milk (use 1.5 cups for a thicker smoothie)
- 1 cup baby spinach
- 2 cups frozen wild blueberries
- 1 medium ripe banana (frozen preferred, fresh also works)
- ¼ cup almonds
- 2 inches peeled ginger
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon baking vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender in the order listed, and blend until smooth, 2 to 5 minutes.
A note on customizing:
This recipe can be customized to your liking: The formula is simply milk, greens, berries, and something "creamy" (whether it's a banana or avocado) to make sure you're getting a balance of protein, healthy fats, fiber, and plenty of polyphenols, a category of chemicals found in greens, berries, and spices.
For greens, you could swap out a mild leafy green like baby spinach for romaine or butter lettuce. This version calls for wild blueberries, but blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries are also great options. For spices, ginger (fresh or frozen are preferred, but you can use ground if that's all you have) and turmeric with black pepper to up its bioavailability are a great trio. You could also play with cinnamon, which pairs amazingly well with blueberries; sumac, which has a lemony flavor; or cayenne if you're feeling adventurous. All of these ingredients offer complex polyphenols with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Why this recipe can help you stress less.
The stress-busting stars of this recipe are the blueberries, spinach, and turmeric. A recent clinical trial suggests flavonoids in wild blueberries are mood-boosters1, and kids and adults both reported a brighter mood two hours after intake. Scientists don't know exactly why this is, but they have some ideas: Flavonoids improve blood flow to the brain areas that regulate emotion, so they might help strengthen those areas while dampening the areas associated with depression. Flavonoids in wild blueberries also slow the breakdown of mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, so there are more available and circulating to keep our spirits up.
Spinach is one of the best sources of the essential mineral magnesium, a nutrient seven out of 10 Americans aren't getting enough of2. (It's also present in almonds, soy milk, yogurt, banana, cow's milk, 3and avocado.) Studies suggest that magnesium can help manage mild to moderate levels of anxiousness4, though more research is needed.*
Turmeric's claim to fame lies in its curcumin, a bioactive polyphenol with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may be responsible for lowering anxiety scores in a recent clinical trial of generally healthy people. The findings suggest turmeric can give you a lift during occasional periods of anxiousness5. Just remember, curcumin isn't well absorbed on its own, but by combining it with piperine, a bioactive in black pepper, its bioavailability increases by up to 2,000%6.
What to pair with your breakfast.
While a smoothie alone can't guarantee a calm day, it can be a great addition to your existing stress management routine.
If you're looking to enhance your breakfast even more, consider pairing it with calming chamomile tea or energizing but still soothing green tea. Your morning ritual is also a good time to remember to take a multi with stress-supportive ingredients like hemp oil and vitamin D.* The CBD in hemp oil was found to increase activity in the brain region that mediates stress7 in a neuroimaging study, while vitamin D has been shown to help support mood8 and promote healthy immune function9.*
Last but not least, how you enjoy your breakfast is just as important as the breakfast itself: Consider turning on some tunes and making a mindful moment out of the meal to set the tone for the rest of your day.
Maggie Moon, MS, RD, is the best-selling author of The MIND Diet and lead author of the Medical Nutrition Therapy for Neurologic Disorders textbook chapter in the 15th edition of Krause’s Food and Nutrition Care Process. She completed her clinical training at New York Presbyterian Hospital of Columbia and Cornell, and holds a master of science degree in Nutrition and Education from Columbia University’s Teachers College, with a bachelor of arts degree in English Literature from U.C. Berkeley. Her culinary school training is from The New School of Cooking in Los Angeles, CA.
She has written three consumer health books, two textbook chapters, and both writes for and contributes expert advice to hundreds of consumer press articles.