Stress. Our number one challenge in our modern fast-paced lives. If you are anything like me, you are probably already working on your breathing, are practicing more mindfulness, are trying to make more me-time and come onto your yoga mat as often as possible. All those strategies are part of our daily battles that we fight to stay sane in a world that is filled with more and more pressure, noise and obligations. Amidst our relentless striving for balance and Zen, we are also too aware of those foods we need to avoid if we are not looking at pushing our stress levels beyond total limits: Foods high in refined sugar, gluten, too much coffee, alcohol or any processed foods are off the menu.
However, are we also making sure we are including in particular those foods that can help us to relieve all this nervous tension a little bit quicker?
Are there certain foods that, if we feast on more and include them regularly into our diet, they will have soothing effects on our brain chemistry?
Of course, there are.
Here are my top 6 foods that will bring more calmness into your hectic lives.
1. Foods that are high in folate
Amongst the most stress relieving foods are those that are high in folate. Folate is needed to make certain neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Therefore, eating more of this vitamin can prevent deficiencies and help your body to produce more of those feel good hormones.
Foods that are particularly rich in folate include dark leafy green vegetables, asparagus, avocados, brussels sprouts, broccoli and citrus fruits.
2. Foods that are a rich source of magnesium
Magnesium is able to regulate your nervous system and reduce your stress in more than just one way. This amazing mineral is a precursor for the neurotransmitters serotonin. This means that a diet high in magnesium will help to better regulate our emotions and boost our general wellbeing. In addition, magnesium supports our adrenal glands, which become more depleted the more stressed we are. By consuming more of this anti-stress mineral, however, we can replenish our stores of magnesium and thus prevent our cells from being over-reactive or -excitable.
Foods, that are fantastic sources of magnesium include raw cocoa powder, pumpkin seeds, seaweed, beans, leafy green vegetables, avocados, brown rice and bananas.
3. Foods that hold high levels of vitamin C
Vitamin C is our anti-stress vitamin in that it is quickly able to counteract the release of cortisol and helps to clear the stress hormone out of our bloodstream. It thus prevents cortisol levels from staying elevated as well as prevents high spikes of blood pressure which are part of our normal response to stressful situation.
Foods that are particularly high in vitamin C are berries, red and green capsicum, kiwi fruits, kale, parsley, cilantro, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts and oranges.
4. Foods that comprise large amounts of the essential amino acid Tryptophan
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which the body cannot produce on its own but has to obtain from food sources. One of its many functions includes its conversion to serotonin which is associated with mood regulation. High levels of serotonin in the brain can therefore reduce feelings of stress and instead promote feelings of relaxation and contentedness.
Foods that contain considerable amounts of tryptophan include organic turkey, chicken, pumpkin seeds, dairy, bananas, raw cocoa powder, raw oats, tofu, eggs and salmon.
5. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids
In our modern western diets, we often tend to eat an unhealthy balance of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids. However, omega-3 fatty acids are essential to our well being in particular to the health of our brain and nervous system. Not consuming enough of these brain nourishing omega-3 fatty can lead to inflammation in the brain and disruption of cell communication which then is linked to further stress, anxiety and depression.
Foods that are fantastic sources of omega-3 fatty acids include wild caught salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts,
6. Fermented foods
Fermented foods contain beneficial gut microorganisms which fight off harmful bacteria, and thus help to maintain a balance between good and bad bacteria in the digestive system. There is increasing research that suggests there is a direct link between the microbiome in the gut and the state of our mind and nervous system. The healthier and more balanced our intestinal microorganisms, the better we are able to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. This then means we are much more capable to deal with our lives stressors in a positive and effective way.
Great examples of fermented foods are yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, miso, kimchi and kombucha.
I know I am a bit of a food nerd – but I truly cannot wait to first stock up my pantry and then cook up a stress-busting storm. While our modern lives might be brim full with things we have got to do, they also offer us a lot of fantastic new research and methods on how to best cope with those pressures and nourish ourselves accordingly.
I don’t know about you, but I find it incredibly empowering to know which beautiful wholefoods I can include more plentiful in my crazily, busy life to make everything not only a little tastier and healthier but also help me to stay on top of my daily stressors.