Here’s the truth: we are all emotional eaters. Emotions show up in the body, and your very wise body is asking for help to get calm. Here’s a quick list of ways you can support your body in feeling strong and calm again.
1. Water: Stay hydrated. Your brain works better and your nervous system is more calm when you’re hydrated.
2. Chamomile Tea: It’s calming for muscle spasms and the entire nervous system. Drink all day and before bed.
3. Sweet Potatoes: The sweet, dense flavor and texture are calming for upset stomach without the blood-sugar destroying effects of refined sweeteners. Roast up a dozen and store the extra in the fridge. Use leftovers for sweet potato pudding (recipe).
4. Coconut Butter: Like peanut butter, but from coconuts. Sweet, high in healthy fats that are soothing and satiating for the stomach, coconut butter and oil are helpful for thyroid and overall hormone production.
5. Kale, Bok Choy, Collards (ok, any leafy greens): Leafy greens are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. Also a good fiber source, which can help keep our digestive system, rocked by stressed, on track.
6. Pumpkin Seeds: A good source of tryptophan, an amino acid (protein building block) that your body converts into serotonin. Serotonin helps promote happiness and relaxation.
7. Raw Sauerkraut: The secret to improving your mood is to support your gut. Your gut houses and produces most of your serotonin (see above), and unhealthy gut flora (produced by stress and too much sugar) can have a detrimental impact your brain health, leading to issues like anxiety and depression. Beneficial bacteria found in naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut have a direct effect on brain chemistry, transmitting mood- and behavior-regulating signals to your brain via your vagus nerve.
8. Wild Salmon (Omega-3 fats ETP and DHA): Found in wild caught salmon, sardines and anchovies (or supplement form, such as krill oil), the animal-based fats play a big role in your emotional well-being. One study in Brain Behavior and Immunity showed a dramatic 20 percent reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3.
9. Dark Chocolate: Ok, who was I kidding with all the greens and salmon? Chocolate is a proven mood elevator. There’s a chemical reason for our love of the dark stuff: it’s called anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression. It’s a derivative of the Sanskrit word “bliss,” and one of the great things about chocolate is that it not only produces this compound, it also contains other chemicals that prolong the “feel-good” aspects of anandamide. Choose an 85% chocolate and kick up your feet with a cup of unsweetened chamomile tea.
10. Sunshine: Ok, it’s not really a food, but hear me out. Sunshine both in your eyes and on your skin helps your body produce serotonin, that neurotransmitter associated with a good mood. Low levels of Vitamin D, also boosted by sun exposure, is associated with anxiety. Get outside and try not to wear sunglasses – get the sunlight in your eyes, without directly looking at the sun, for maximum benefit. Oh, and no sun screen. Just for the next few days. Really. It inhibits your ability to produce Vitamin D through your skin, and the few extra wrinkles will be worth it.