Feeling stressed lately? If you’re like us, your first instinct is to run to your pantry and grab the first unhealthy comfort food that you see. We all know it’s not the healthiest option, but there’s something magical about a bowl of mac and cheese, a side of fries, or a block of chocolate that we continually crave.
However, here’s the thing about those go-to comfort foods: they’re usually high in fat, sodium, and sugar which causes blood sugar to spike, then leaves us feeling more anxious and guilt-ridden – and we all know and hate those feelings!
Don’t be too hard on yourself though—it has very little to do with self-control. When you’re up against a stressed-out brain, the odds will always be against you. The good news is that there are some really awesome superfoods that can actually help de-stress your brain and help you feel calmer.
These foods contain minerals and vitamins that trigger the release of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain while keeping your blood sugar stable. The best part? They’re everyday foods you already know.
De-stress by filling up on these six brain-boosting superfoods:
Start your morning by adding yogurt to your breakfast routine. The probiotics—a science-y way to say good bacteria—found in yogurt can help boost your mood and reduce stress by preventing free radicals and neurotoxins in the brain.
In one study, people who consumed probiotic yogurt on a daily basis were better able to manage their stress. Research has also shown that it can promote better functioning of brain regions that control emotional and stress hormones. The key is to make sure you’re choosing yogurt that contains probiotics without all the bad sugar and unnecessary additives.
When 4:00 pm hits the clock, and you immediately hit that afternoon slump, instead of reaching for that second cup of coffee, brew a cup of green tea instead. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has been found to reduce stress responses when you’re feeling antsy. That’s because L-theanine can help lower cortisol levels, which is a stress hormone linked to anxious feelings.
Green tea also contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG for short. This can play a role in lowering certain symptoms of stress while also promoting better brain health.
Okay, so we realize that no one ever craves spinach, but just hear us out. Filling up on this leafy green can have a calming effect because it’s packed with magnesium, a mineral that helps regulate cortisol levels and promote feelings of relaxation.
One way it counteracts stress is by binding to and stimulating GABA receptors in the brain. When GABA levels are low, the brain gets stuck in the “on” position and it becomes difficult to relax. So, make that easy switch from your ordinary lettuce to the powerful spinach. You can add it to your morning eggs or throw a handful in a smoothie to reap its health benefits.
Sushi-lovers rejoice! A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids helps keep stress hormones and adrenaline from spiraling out of control, and salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3s. Salmon also contains vitamin D, which has been found to boost brain health and help people feel more relaxed.
Whether you prefer raw or cooked doesn’t matter—Just try to consume four ounces at least three times a week. It will help boost your mood, plus promote a healthy heart when those stress hormones do start to spike.
We all know that Guac is always a couple extra dollars to add to your meal, but we promise it’s worth it. Avocados are rich in vitamin B, which the brain needs to keep nerves and cells healthy, and stress hormones at bay.
B vitamins are also well known for keeping energy levels up, reducing fatigue, and improving cognitive performance. And we all know that we handle stress better when we’re not tired and worn out.
Another perk of avocados is that they’re high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, which help lower blood pressure. Next time you feel a wave of stress rolling in, go ahead and add that extra $1.00 side of avocado, we know you won’t regret it.
Throw a handful in your cereal, your yogurt, or have them with a few pieces of dark chocolate because these small berries pack a powerful, stress-busting punch. Blueberries are full of vitamin C and antioxidants such as flavonoids, which our bodies need to help repair and protect cells.
Studies have shown that people with high levels of vitamin C show fewer mental and physical signs of stress, and they are able to bounce back from stressful situations quicker than people with low levels of vitamin C.