In a study published in the journal Psychopharmacology, German researchers attempted to stress out 120 people by asking them to give a speech and then answer difficult math problems. Researchers found that those participants who had been given high doses of vitamin C before the stress-fest had lower blood pressure levels and concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol.
A perky disposition depends on carbohydrates. Serotonin, your brain's primary mood-boosting neurotransmitter, comes from the amino acid tryptophan, which needs carbohydrates to reach the brain, according to Judith Wurtman, PhD, former MIT research scientist and co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet. Problem is, as cute as Christmas cookies are, their refined carbs spur an overproduction of insulin that's not only linked to sugar crashes but spikes in stress hormones as well. Reach for warm and gooey oatmeal instead, suggests Wurtman. It contains the healthy carbohydrates and fiber needed to boost your serotonin levels for a full three hours.
Stress time is the perfect teatime. In a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, adults with mild to moderate generalized anxiety disorder who took chamomile extract for 8 weeks saw greater reductions in anxiety than those who took a placebo. Plus, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, chamomile promotes sleep so that your body can get the rest it needs to deal with stressors.
What can't these little nuts do? Almonds are brimming with vitamin E and B vitamins
, which may protect both your immune system and mood. A handful of almonds packs about 20% of your daily-recommended intake of magnesium, which fights free radicals in the body. Not getting enough magnesium can even cause fatigue and trigger migraine headaches, says Gomer. And since, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, nearly seven out of 10 Americans don't get enough of the nutrient, it's a good bet that low magnesium levels have you on edge.
Here's a whole new reason to give thanks: With more nutrients than their colorless cousin, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene, which improves mood by preventing the formation of pro-inflammatory compounds, like interleukin-6, that are linked to depression, says Melinda R. Ring, MD, Medical Director of Integrative Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Sweet spuds are also high other mood enhancers like B6 and magnesium.
Lentils are the perfect comfort food—and not just because they're hearty, filling, and perfectly warm on cold winter days. They are also packed with depression-fighting folate, which helps make serotonin and dopamine, possibly explaining why up to half of people who suffer from depression have low folate levels, ."Folate's are so important to mood that many anti-depressant medications even contain the nutrient." If you find yourself experiencing more high-lows than chronic lows, good news: lentils are also a great source of fiber, which can help stabilize blood sugar levels and keep you from snapping under stress.