There’s no doubt that we’re still in the thick of the coronavirus quarantine. With no definite end or certainty in sight, it’s completely normal to feel anxious that things are up in the air. Naturally, we gravitate towards food for comfort. While banana bread may be trendy at the moment, there are other grounding foods that can help us feel our best while also nourishing our bodies.
We’ve heard a lot about the gut-brain axis and how food affects our mood. Long story short: what we put in our stomach directly affects our brain.
95% of serotonin (the “feel-good” chemical that contributes to our sense of well-being) is produced in the gut, which means that eating foods that are easy to digest and support our microbiome can play a huge role in making sure neurotransmitters function properly. In turn, we feel better and more stable on a chemical level.
When we are mindful of what we eat, we create a strong foundation for our wellbeing and mental health which helps us handle outside circumstances. So, especially in a time like this, it’s crucial to use as many tools as we can to keep our body and mind strong.
Here are some nourishing foods that both ground us and support our health due to their unique properties and nutrient profile:
1. Sweet potatoes
Though they get a bad rap, carbs are incredibly important for our health; after all, every cell in our body runs on glucose. Sweet potatoes contain complex carbs which keep blood sugar levels stable to balance mood. They are also high in beta-carotene, which is essential for optimal brain function. From an energy perspective, sweet potatoes support our root chakra since they are literally rooted from the ground. The root chakra is located at the base of the spine and is responsible for a sense of security and stability.
2. Hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are amazingly small relative to how much benefit we derive from them. Besides being a great source of easily assimilated plant protein, hemp seeds contain tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin. This means that hemp seeds can help lessen anxiety and increase a sense of happiness and well-being. Hemp seeds taste great sprinkled over a salad or blended with water to create “milk” as a dairy alternative.
Everyone’s favorite fruit (technically)! Avocados are an amazing source of healthy fat, which can feel very satisfying in a meal. They support the production of neurotransmitters including serotonin and dopamine since they contain vitamin B6. Also, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids found in avocados have been linked to improving mood in patients with depression.
Ginger has been used in Eastern medicine for thousands of years due to its immune boosting and anti-bacterial properties. Ginger is warming in the body and is said to boost our digestive fire (or agni ) according to Ayurveda. If our digestion functions better, we absorb nutrients more effectively and, again, support our gut-brain axis. Having warm water with lemon and ginger in the morning is a great way to incorporate this food and start your day.
Magnesium is helpful in managing stress and anxiety. In fact, one study found that rats with low magnesium in their diets displayed hyperemotionality and behavior related to anxiety. Now would be a good time to make sure we’re getting adequate intake of magnesium, especially since most people are already deficient in it . Luckily, we can find this important mineral in spinach. In addition to being magnesium-rich, spinach contains fiber so it acts as a prebiotic for the healthy bacteria in our gut. A good way to sneak in this leafy green is to throw a handful into any smoothie since you won’t be able to taste it!
Try to work these into your meals and really observe how you feel. Oh, and don’t forget to turn the volume down on the news every once in a while.