Feeling stressed? Yes, us too. But luckily, tweaking our diets can make a huge difference. These delicious superfoods will boost your mood, calm your mind, and help you relax, so you can breeze through the busy season.
Apples activate feel-good endorphins
These seasonal gems get their sweet-tart flavor from malic acid, a unique plant compound that prompts the release of mood-elevating endorphins in the brain. Reach for a Gala, Fuji, or any variety when you’re rattled, and scientists at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation say you’ll feel 52 percent calmer in as little as five minutes.
Peanuts enhance calming brain waves
Nibbling on 1⁄3 cup of peanuts or two tablespoons of natural peanut butter can dial down your anxiety and stress levels by 56 percent for three hours, Canadian researchers say. Thanks goes to the healthy plant fats in nuts, which boost your brain’s production of relaxing alpha waves, often within 30 minutes of the first bite!
Dark chocolate boosts soothing serotonin.
Savoring an ounce of dark chocolate can help you de-stress in two minutes, and if you enjoy it daily, you’ll cut even chronic tension by as much as 45 percent. That’s the word from scientists at the University of Arizona in Tucson, who say this sweet treat contains phenylethylamine (PEA), a unique compound that increases the production of calming serotonin in the brain. And since women have more PEA receptors than men, this is a delicious remedy tailored especially for us!
Coffee spurs dopamine release.
You know a well-timed cup of joe perks you up — but researchers at Vanderbilt University say drinking two cups daily can also calm you down! The brew’s blend of caffeine and chlorogenic acid switches on brain enzymes that produce mood-steadying dopamine, cutting your risk of feeling frazzled by 45 percent.
Spinach quiets the mind’s anxiety center.
This leafy green is brimming with magnesium, vitamin K, and beta-carotene, a potent nutrient trio that calms the amygdala (the anxiety center of your brain). It’s no wonder Yale University researchers say eating one cup of raw spinach (or 1/2 cup of cooked, such as in soup) daily makes edginess and tension plunge by 52 percent in just three days!
Carrots release relaxing GABA.
If you’re ready to unwind but your brain is in overdrive, munching on a carrot could slash your stress levels by 35 percent in 60 seconds and help you feel zen for up to 90 minutes. The reason, say Stanford University researchers, is that chewing on something crunchy prompts your brain to release the calming neurotransmitter GABA.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.