I think it’s fair to say that a whole lot of us are feeling extra stressed from *gestures everywhere.* Stress has and continues to run high. But there are ways to help, including foods that could help you keep calm and carry on.
If you’re having trouble relaxing, avoiding sugar and caffeine is always a good call. These ingredients can further stress our bodies, setting us up for anxiety. On the flip side, some foods can help support our nervous system, increase our resiliency to stress, and even make us feel calm right after we eat them.
As we navigate these unpredictable times, consider adding these foods to your shopping list.
A fermented drink that falls somewhere between yogurt and milk, kefir is a great addition to your stress-busting diet. It can be made from dairy milk or nut milk and contains high amounts of beneficial bacteria, which support a healthy gut microbiome.
At first glance, our gut health might seem unrelated to our nervous system, but it’s quite the opposite. For example, studies have shown that stress can alter the microbiome in undesirable ways, and that anxiety could potentially be reduced by regulating gut bacteria. Raise a glass to kefir!
Fatty fish like salmon are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which could be beneficial for calming the nervous system. In fact, a review of trials showed that improvements in anxiety symptoms were associated with omega-3 fatty acid treatment.
Check out these simple salmon recipes that will immediately have you adding salmon to your cart.
Tart cherries contain high levels of various phytochemicals, including melatonin. You’ve probably heard of melatonin before; it’s known as the “sleep hormone” because our bodies release it in the evening to help us get to sleep.
A small pilot study suggested that consuming tart cherry juice increases melatonin levels and can improve sleep quality and duration. So, if you’re having trouble winding down at night, tart cherries might become your go-to food in the evenings. Plus: Yummy.
Cucumbers contain B vitamins, which help support our central nervous system. Some studies have shown that a B complex vitamin can improve anxiety symptoms compared to a placebo. However, a more recent review of studies suggests that more research may be necessary.
Still, cucumbers are never a bad option for a fresh salad or sammie.
Several studies have found links between vitamin C and mood. In fact, one study on 42 high school students showed that vitamin C lowered anxiety levels.
Citrus fruits — like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit — are also some of the best ways to get vitamin C in your diet. Here are some ways to sneak lemons into your dessert routine.
The salty spread from across the pond may not immediately come to mind for a relaxing evening. But one study published in 2018, showed that people who consume yeast-based spreads — such as Marmite, Vegemite, Promite, and Aussiemite — have lower anxiety and stress levels.
According to the researchers, the B vitamin content in these spreads contributes to their anxiety-reducing powers. To start using Vegemite, try spreading it thinly (that’s key when you’re new to it) on one side of a grilled cheese sandwich. It adds a bitter, salty flavor that you may just learn to love.
As we now know, a balanced microbiome is essential for optimal mental health. Onions are a good source of prebiotic fiber, which helps to feed healthy gut bacteria. Other sources of prebiotic fiber include leeks, bananas, garlic, and asparagus.
Try adding onions to your favorite meals, like this flatbread pizza.
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium, which has the potential to have positive effects on anxiety, though this study noted that stronger and well-designed research is needed to be sure.
Here’s how to roast them for a toasty, salty snack.
Cravings fulfilled: One smaller study with 48 participants suggested that eating dark chocolate (85 percent dark) can cause improved mood levels by acting as a prebiotic in the human gut. For extra relaxation benefits, dark chocolate also contains significant levels of magnesium.
Just make sure you opt for dark chocolate, as milk chocolate does not have the same effect. If you’re not sure what to buy, here are some of the best dark chocolate bars available.
Ready to keep calm and munch on? Food and diet can’t fix all your problems, but it never hurts to focus your diet on nutrient-dense foods that have the potential to help you keep your cool in these trying times.
Eating more of these foods could help promote relaxation, peaceful sleep, and a sense of calm. Luckily, most of these foods are also affordable, delicious, and can be prepared in any number of creative ways.