Food & Recipes

Feeling Stressed? This Tasty Side Dish Can Ease Anxiety

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We all have to deal with stress now and again. It might feel like we’re drowning in it at times, but there’s always a way to pick ourselves back up. In fact, according to a psychiatrist, finding relief can be as easy as eating some potatoes. 

We’re big fans of spuds, but it’s not just their deliciousness that will lift your mood (though creamy mashed potatoes do make us happy). According to Judith J. Wurtman, PhD, potatoes and other starchy carbs like popcorn and pretzels offer serotonin-boosting properties. She explained how she once overheard someone at a drugstore who was looking for 5HTP supplements, which claim to elevate serotonin levels. “The problem with 5HTP is that taking it to make serotonin is unnatural,” she told them. On the other hand, our bodies are built to naturally make serotonin from food. “If you were to buy that bag of pretzels and eat them, you would have more serotonin in your brain within half an hour.” Sounds like a yummy solution to us!

Dr. Wurtman backed her claim up with science. After we eat carbohydrates, insulin is released which allows tryptophan, a serotonin inducing amino acid, to enter our brain easier without battling against other aminos getting in the way. Wurtman also pointed out that unlike 5HTP, eating a potato or pretzel has less chances of side effects like drowsiness and nausea.

If you’re worried that you’ll pack on pounds while trying to relieve tension with carbs, you’ll be happy to learn you only need a small amount for the relaxation to kick in. Wurtman recommends 30 grams of carbohydrates, which makes this technique diet-friendly — even for carb-restricting plans like the keto diet. As Wurtman puts it, “If the carbohydrate is starchy and very low-fat like breakfast cereal, or popcorn, pretzels, or rice crackers, natural tranquility comes at a price no one should resist.” You can read more of Wurtman’s tips in her book, The Serotonin Power Diet ($11.45, Amazon).

Here’s hoping we can all feel less stressed and embrace more happiness with the help of scrumptious carbs!

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