Holiday stress getting the best of you? Calm jangled nerves with these tasty superfoods that will nourish and calm you, so you can relax and enjoy the season. Make your grocery list as you read this one!
Boost relaxing brain waves with apples.
Dig into a slice of apple pie, a bowl of apple crumble, or a baked apple, and you could feel 55 percent calmer and happier in 10 minutes, say doctors at Chicago’s Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation. Credit the enticing, tangy aroma of cooked apples and this fruit’s rich stores of fruit sugars and malic acid, which, when combined, boost the production of calming alpha waves.
Quiet the emotional switchboard with vanilla.
A blissful night’s sleep will cut your risk of next-day tension and anxiety by 66 percent. And savoring a sweet, creamy bowl of vanilla pudding (or other vanilla-rich treat) at bedtime can help you drift off in 10 minutes, plus halve your risk of restless sleep, Australian researchers report. That’s because the familiar taste of vanilla calms the limbic system — the emotional switchboard of your brain.
Melt away trapped muscle tension with potatoes.
Indulging in your favorite potato dish, including the tasty skins, will help you feel calmer and happier in 30 minutes, plus cut your risk of any tension and anxiety in half in one week if you enjoy a serving daily. That’s the word from scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who say potato skins are rich in potassium — a mineral that keeps muscles relaxed and tension-free.
Elevate dopamine with coffee.
One of our favorite superfoods? A morning cup of joe! It doesn’t just perk you up, it cuts your risk of stress by 35 percent, say scientists at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University. That’s because the sip’s chlorogenic acids prompt the release of mood-steadying dopamine. Bonus: Chlorogenic acids energize immune cells, say Northwestern University researchers, cutting COVID risk by 10 percent.
Focus a scattered brain with oatmeal.
If stress makes you feel unfocused, oatmeal can help. Canadian researchers say this whole grain brims with nutrients (beta-glucans) that heighten the brain’s release of the focus-enhancing hormone GABA, helping you feel more clear-headed in just 20 minutes, plus cutting your risk of scattered thinking in half if you enjoy it daily.
Stop anxiety surges with spinach.
Spinach boasts rich stores of carotenoids, compounds that soothe the brain’s anxiety-producing amygdala. Enjoy one cup of this leafy green daily, and UCLA researchers say your edginess and tension could plunge by 50 percent. Tip: Stir spinach into bubbling soups and stews just 60 seconds before taking off the heat — you’ll get its fresh taste (and health benefits) without any hint of bitterness.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.