Superfoods to the Rescue


 Theresa Bui | Blogger | SQ Online (2016-17)

Let’s talk about your diet. Not the restrictive calorie-counting, carb-limiting, protein-maximizing ones. Just your regular day-to-day eating habits. Personally, my dietary genre would best be described as a pre-teen at midnight. I am an absolute Hot Cheetos junkie. However, I am trying to improve my diet because I feel like a slob, constantly microwaving Gyu-Dons and Hot Pockets. Just wasting these precious dining dollars. If you’re not at that stage, avoid it at all cost! I have an alternative meal suggestion: SUPERFOODS, or foods that are considered beneficial toward your health and may improve medical conditions. I compiled a list of three food items that you should try to eat at least five times a week to reduce stress. They are accessible, affordable, and bearable.

Leafy and Green will make you beam

Image 1. Woman happily eating a salad. (Source)

Leafy green vegetables contain folate, a water-soluble vitamin B. Folate aids in the production of dopamine, a pleasure-inducing neurotransmitter. Its primary role is to regulate movement and emotions. Dope, right? It is recommended that you increase folate intake as you age because deficiency can increase susceptibility to age-related diseases. Folate will actually decrease the risks of depression, Parkinson’s disease symptoms, strokes, and “tired blood,” a.k.a. anemia. I know you aren’t that old, but it is good to think ahead for your mental and body health.

Folate-rich food items include:

  • Spinach
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Folic acid capsules

Turkey Chest is the Best

Image 2. A cute dog with a fake turkey. (Source)

Okay. Not actually turkey chest. I meant turkey breast, but I thought turkey chest sounded better. Anyway, turkey is rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is cool and all, but what we really care about its derivation: serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that controls pain perception, sleep cycles, hunger, and emotions. In a study conducted by Simon N. Young and Marco Leyton from McGill University, tryptophan is found to have a significant role in emotions. Deficiency can cause irritability and aggressiveness, whereas, sufficiency can lead to mild to moderate depression. Increasing tryptophan intake can proportionally improve dominant behavior in social situations, so maybe you can nail that public speaking midterm or sales pitch. Fewer mood swings and better social skills just by eating more turkey on Thanksgiving? Talk about a win-win!

Other foods that are high in tryptophan are:

  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Tofu

Yogurt So Your Bowels Don’t Hurt

Image 3. Young boy enjoying a cup of probiotics. (Source)

It is important to maintain a healthy gut, something with which I struggle. Hello, constant stomach flus. You’re probably thinking, “My stomach has nothing to do with my brain.” FALSE. The stomach is actually considered the “second brain.” The telephone line, a.k.a. vagus nerve, between the brain and the stomach is receptive from both ends. Unhealthy gut flora (basically gut bacteria garden) takes a toll on your mental health; it can actually induce anxiety and depression. Yogurt contains beneficial bacteria cultures, which can improve gut health, which in turn is sending behavioral/mood-regulating signals to your brain. For example, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus lowers the stress-induced hormone cortisol; therefore, it decreases anxiety and depression levels!

Other fermented food items I would recommend:

  • Kimchi
  • Pickles
  • Kombucha (Synergy Organic & Raw, Trilogy flavored ONLY! Everything else sucks.)

That’s it. These are my top three choices for superfoods against stress. They are chosen because of their accessibility, affordability, and my willingness to eat them. In addition to increasing your intake on these food items, you need to decrease your intake of “comfort food.” Yes, they’re the sweet, sweet simple, and complex sugars: carbs. I am not promoting the fad low-carb, no-carb whatever diets. Simply cut back on sugar, gluten, and processed foods, because the contents create mood swings, hinder serotonin production, and cause overall irritation, respectively. Just put one snack back on the shelf. You don’t have to go cold turkey breasts. Ha ha ha. Just try to eat one better meal a day. If you are interested in health.com’s take on superfoods, click here.

 

References:

  1. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0047637401003657
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Simon_Young3/publication/11473899_Young_SN_Leyton_M_The_role_of_serotonin_in_human_mood_and_social_interaction_Insight_from_altered_tryptophan_levels_Pharmacol_Biochem_Behav_71_857-865/links/02bfe50d43d91ca956000000.pdf
  3. http://www.medicaldaily.com/pulse/more-gut-feeling-gi-tract-acts-second-brain-influencing-behavior-mood-and-stress-326744
  4. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/04/27/10-stress-relieving-superfoods.aspx


About

Theresa Bui is a second year Physiology & Neuroscience major at UCSD. You will, more often than not, find her at these 3 places: the gym, the Biomedical library, or in the comfort of her own bed watching every existing TV series. She is interested in self improvement physically, mentally, and intellectually, so she strives to incorporate it in her biology-focused lifestyle blogs. Ten years from now, Theresa hopes to become the next Dr. McDreamy or McSteamy. She isn't very picky. You can contact Theresa at buitheresa97@gmail.com.