A cup of something warm and caffeinated in the morning isn’t just a preference for some of us – it’s a way of life. Caffeine isn’t exactly known for busting stress, but there are ways to have your boost with a side of mental calm to prepare you for anything the day brings.
For much of Asia, green tea is the preferred companion to meals and conversation. While green tea does contain caffeine, it also contains the amino acid L-Theanine, which is known to have relaxing effects (NIH study). Loose leaf green teas have a delicate flavor, and there are so many varieties. Try browsing the aisles of an Asian grocery store for dozens of pretty, fragrant teas. Japanese matcha tea is made from ground tea leaves, and offers more benefits because you consume the whole leaf. Matcha is prized for its long-lasting boost to mood and energy. Try this matcha latte recipe for a creamy, refreshing beverage to keep you both mellow and sharp.
Black teas have a slightly higher caffeine content than green, but the comforting blend of aromatic spices in masala chai offer plenty of mood-enhancing benefits. To give your morning chai even more anxiety-reducing power, add either fresh or powdered turmeric. This study showed turmeric can work as an anti-depressant, increasing serotonin and dopamine, key brain chemicals involved in mood regulation. In addition, turmeric has shown the ability to reduce anxiety induced by sulfite, a common food preservative.
This chai recipe can soothe stress and make your kitchen smell amazing. Be sure to drop in a few black peppercorns, which gives a more traditional chai flavor and also increases the bioavailability of turmeric.
2. De-stress with a refreshing cool beverage.
In addition to being a friend to expectant moms with morning sickness, ginger also has shown significant anti-anxiety effects. This study identified nine different compounds in ginger that bind to serotonin receptors, which are part of the pathways that influence a wide range of processes, including sleep, mood, and anxiety. Try making this wholesome ginger brew, and then serve it over ice with a splash of sparkling water.
Lemon balm is an herb used for centuries as a calming agent and digestive aid is lemon balm. Easily grown in a home garden or container, lemon balm has, unsurprisingly, a bright citrus flavor. And this home remedy is the real thing—it was shown to significantly increase feelings of calm in this laboratory study. Try this lemon balm spritzerto chill out on hot summer days.
3. Keep calm and eat lunch.
A few years ago, the amino acid tryptophan spread into the nation’s consciousness as the reason for the post-Thanksgiving coma so many of us experience. Beyond the hype, a diet rich in tryptophan can have a positiveimpact on your mood, and can even have a modest impact on depression. But you don’t have to roast a turkey to enjoy tryptophan’s good vibes. Bananas and whole grains like oats are both high in tryptophans. As a bonus, the potassium and magnesium in bananas are also natural muscle relaxants. Eat sliced or mashed bananas on hearty oat bread for a healthy, anti-stress meal that’s much easier than roasting a turkey.
In addition to being high in tryptophan, salmon is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. We may know omega-3s most for their heart-healthy benefits, but they are also associated with lower stress levels. Substitute flaked salmon in your favorite tuna salad recipe, or indulge in a gorgeous cedar-plank grilled salmon filet to make the most of your lunch break.
4. Treat yourself to lower stress.
Self-care is a buzzword to live by. Sometimes, just knowing we’re giving ourselves a treat is enough to lower stress and feel better. But when it’s not, dark chocolate is an indulgence that also delivers solid mood-enhancing benefits. The flavonoids in dark chocolate have demonstrated a neuroprotective effect that helps reduce the risk of some forms of age-related decline in brain function. Studies also indicate a direct relationship between dark chocolate and serotonin levels. This recipe for dark chocolate barkcan be combined with ginger, lavender, or pumpkin seeds to add even more stress-busting power to your sweet snack.
Maca is a nutrient-dense root from South America with hormone-balancing properties (learn about it here) that make it especially helpful for women. This study showed substantial benefits for post-menopausal women, particularly, with the ability to lower blood pressure and decrease depression.This chocolate-maca smoothieacts like medicine, but tastes like dessert.
5. Wind down with a soothing bedtime tonic.
A non-caffeinated herbal tea can set the mood for a peaceful night’s sleep. Tulsi, or holy basil, lavenderand chamomile are all well-known for soothing effects, perfect for a bedtime routine.
Moon milk is a name for a variety of relaxing bedtime brews. The basic components of moon milk are warm milk and adaptogens. Warm milk at bedtime also maximizes milk’s calming tryptophan, though moon milk can also be made with a variety of non-dairy options. Ashwagandha is a potent adaptogen, an entire class of plants known to boost our brain’s ability to deal with stress. That makes it an excellent companion to this recipeof moon milk flavored with sweet notes of cherry, vanilla, and rose.
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