by JACK CHALLEM
In today’s connected world it seems almost impossible to chill out. Smartphones keep us tuned into work and the world 24/7, which often means anxiety and stress are also present 24/7.
“Stress generates anxiety, and anxiety keeps our minds in motion,” says Mark Stengler, NMD, of Encinitas, California. “Luckily, we can choose from several natural substances to help us stay calm when the world around us is in turmoil.” Meditation, soft music, and disconnecting from the stresses of life (at least for a while) can add a semblance of balance. And as Stengler suggests, these supplements can help, too.
Many Americans don’t get enough B vitamins, making this supplement a good first defense. Researchers determined way back in 1943 that B vitamins had anti-stress and anti-anxiety benefits. Since then, they’ve discovered the brain uses B vitamins to make neurotransmitters, the chemicals that influence mood. For example, in a study of stressed-out office workers, taking high-potency B-complex supplements eased stress, confusion, and anger. A high-potency multivitamin, which contains the B’s, is equally effective.
DOSE: Take a daily multivitamin or B-complex supplement with at least 50 mg each of vitamins B1, B2, and B3. If you develop overactive dreams, cut back on B6.
We need omega-3s—specifically EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)—for brain development as infants and children and to maintain healthy moods as adults. Studies have shown omega-3s have a powerful calming and anti-stress effect. Medical students at The Ohio State University found that omega-3 supplements led to a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms. Other studies show that omega-3s have broad mood-enhancing effects, diminishing anxiety, depression, irritability, and hostility.
Good news or vegans: Omega-3 supplements are now available from both fish and plant sources.
DOSE: Take 1,000–2,000 mg daily.
Found in brain cell membranes, phosphatidylserine protects against the damaging effects of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. A study by German researchers found that high doses reduce cortisol and stress levels in men. College students who took phosphatidylserine had better moods, experienced lower stress, and had less “neurotic” behavior. In seniors, phosphatidylserine can improve memory.
DOSE: Take 200–400 mg daily.
This often-overlooked herb has been shown to effectively minimize anxiety in healthy people and those about to undergo surgery. It also promotes sleep without causing drug-like sedation or grogginess.
DOSE: Follow label directions whether taking passion flower as a supplement or tea.
Foods for Stress
You already know oranges are an excellent source of highly important vitamin C, but did you know vitamin C has the ability to lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol? To relieve stress, peel back the layers of a fresh orange or better yet, try this Date and Orange Salad with Pistachios. Serves 6.
- 4 mandarin oranges, peeled, sectioned
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 4 tablespoons chopped dates
- 4 tablespoons crumbled queso cotija or campesino
- 4 Belgian endives, pulled apart
- Pistachios, for garnish
- 4 tablespoons orange juice
- 6 teaspoons rice vinegar
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of ground cardamom
- Decoratively arrange oranges, onion, dates, cheese, endive, and pistachios on four salad plates.
- Whisk together all dressing ingredients and spoon over salads.
PER SERVING with 1 tablespoon dressing: 129 cal, 6g fat (2g sat fat), 7mg chol, 18g carb (2g fber), 107mg sodium, 2g protein
Green tea contains the amino acid theanine, which acts as a brain booster and helps sharpen thinking and to release feel-good chemicals to fight stress. Aim to sip two cups of green tea each day or opt for consuming it in a unique way, such as these Green Tea Pot Stickers that call for steeped green tea leaves in the filling. Makes 18.
- 1 cup thinly sliced napa cabbage
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- ½ cup thinly sliced bok choy
- ½ cup peeled, sliced, and fnely chopped jicama
- ½ tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons Gyokuro tea leaves (or any looseleaf Japanese green tea)
- 1 cup nearly boiling water
- ½ cup room-temperature water
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 package dumpling wrappers (18–24 total)
- 2 tablespoons organic vegetable oil
- Hot (but not boiling) water, for steaming
- Combine first seven ingredients (cabbage through soy sauce) in a large bowl.
- Steep tea in 1 cup nearly boiling water for 15 seconds. Strain tea; discard water. Chop tea leaves and add to cabbage mixture.
- Combine 1/2 cup water and cornstarch. Place 1 tablespoon cabbage mixture in center of a wrapper. Brush edges with water-cornstarch mixture. Fold to make a half-moon shape. Press edges and crimp with a fork. Repeat with all wrappers and filling.
- Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a sauté pan. When hot, add six dumplings to sear. When brown, turn, and then add 1/2 cup hot water and cover immediately to steam. Steam 2–3 minutes; remove from heat. Repeat with all dumplings.
PER SERVING (2): 75 cal, 3g fat (1g mono, 2g poly, 1g sat), 0mg chol, 10g carb (1g fber), 104mg sodium, 2g protein
Oats are a healthful whole grain that have the ability to help release serotonin, a feel-good chemical, from your brain. The shot of antioxidants can sharpen your thinking and help you overcome your worries. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal or get your oats in these staff-favorite Oat and Fig Squares. Makes 16.
- 24 dried Mission figs
- ¼ cup canola oil or melted butter
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup nonfat milk
- 1 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
- ½ cup rolled oats
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350°. Place dried figs in a small saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and allow figs to soften for 5–7 minutes. Do not drain.
- Lightly coat an 8x8 inch baking pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix canola oil or butter, honey, and milk. In a medium bowl, combine four, rolled oats, baking soda, and salt. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix well.
- Remove softened figs from water and place in a food processor or blender. Add 3 tablespoons of the rehydrating water. Purée until smooth.
- Place slightly more than half of the oat mixture in the prepared pan; spread evenly across pan bottom. Spread figs evenly on top. Add remaining oat mixture on top of fig layer, allowing some fig to show through. Pat lightly to fatten. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely in pan on a wire rack. When cool, cut into 16 squares.
PER SERVING (2x2 inch square): 170 cal, 4g fat (0g sat fat), 0mg cool, 33g carb (5g fber), 80mg sodium, 3g protein