This article was first published on October 13, 2016.
You know you’re stressed when you’re typing at the speed of light, and then feel suddenly jealous of your cat, sleeping peacefully next to you. (“I’m working so hard to feed you and this is how you repay me? By doing nothing but nap all day??”) We all go through these days, and it’s all too easy to turn to food for comfort. But when you’re feeling especially stressed, nothing is worse than grabbing sugary, flour-y baked goods or candy, that take you on a brief sugar high and then make you feel lethargic, tired, bloated, and cranky. Instead, take a 10-minute break and fix yourself one of these stress-busting foods for snacks or light lunch.
1. Vitamin B6
B vitamins are essential for producing neurotransmitters, and are great for stress-reduction. B6 is especially crucial, since it is the first to be used up as a response to stress. For the best effects, try to eat these B6 rich foods throughout the day to keep your stress levels down and mood humming.
–Bananas: Not only rich in B6, but also in tryptophan, an essential amino acid required for neurotransmitter production. The natural sugars and fibers also boost your mood and keep you calm.
–Hazelnuts: Just one ounce has 10% of your daily B6
–Potatoes: one medium potato has 30% of your daily B6, and 70% of your Vitamin C! Not only does Vitamin C reduce oxidative damage caused by physical stress, it also regulates cortisol levels raised by mental stress.
–Nutritional yeast: This must be why I always crave noosh for lunch. Fortified nutritional yeast is packed with B vitamins.
2. Glutamic Acid
Glutamic acid, known as the umami agent, is found in naturally savory foods. It is an inhibitory amino acid and neurotransmitter, meaning it has the opposite effect of excitable neurotransmitters like dopamine. This means foods rich in glutamic acid has calming and soothing effects to balance out that feeling of jittery, so-stressed-and-hectic feeling. Try spinach, seaweed, tahini, sunflower seeds, shiitake, maitake, porcini, tomatoes, beets, corn, leeks, soy, tempeh, green tea, olives, nuts, and cabbage.
3. Raw Cacao
Raw chocolate, also known as cacao, contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which alleviates stress and promotes a feeling of euphoria. Raw chocolate also is one of the most concentrated sources of magnesium, the deficiency of which can cause depression. For best results, have a small piece of raw chocolate or try this delicious raw vegan chocolate mousse featuring cacao.
You knew there was a reason guacamole is so happiness-making. Just one avocado contains 25% of your Vitamin B6, 33% of Vitamin C, 14% magnesium, and hefty amount of glutamic acid. Try making a quick salad with avocados, or my favorite, a vegan grilled “cheeze” sandwich with avocado slices and nutritional yeast. In addition to the Bs from avocado and noosh, you’ll also get some serotonin boost from the bread.
All carbohydrates signal your brain to produce more mood-lifting serotonin, relieving depression, stress, and improving mental focus. But the key is to choose something that will stabilize your blood sugar levels while giving you on-going energy. A macrobiotic bowl of brown rice, topped with kelp, sweet potatoes (another B6 powerhouse), steamed green vegetables and legumes contain plenty of good for you carbs for stress relief. You can also try quinoa, oatmeal, or whole wheat pasta for the same long-lasting calming effect.
What is your go-to stress-busting snack or meal? Please share!
Related: 25 Best Foods for Libido
Photo: Mary Hood and Peaceful Dumpling