Everyone has their own personal comfort food. It’s food that makes you feel good, maybe because of past associations, maybe because of its texture or for other reasons. Some people find a big bowl of oatmeal can help overcome anxiety. Is that because of its comfort food status or is there another reason? It could be both. Oatmeal stimulates the production of serotonin, the feel good hormone, which can calm you and help you sleep.
You need adequate carbs to relax and get a good night’s rest.
In order to make serotonin, you need L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan is in some foods. You’ve probably heard of it at Thanksgiving and how that Turkey helps you relax. It’s in other foods, too. In fact, one cup of oatmeal can provide 33% of your RDI of L-tryptophan. Just increasing the L-tryptophan in your diet doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll increase your serotonin.
You also need to convert that L-tryptophan to serotonin.
You need carbs, such as potatoes, bread or oatmeal, to boost your serotonin levels. Simple carbs increase the body’s levels of insulin and that lets more L-tryptophan go to the brain where the brain then converts it to serotonin. It occurs very quickly. That serotonin then gives you energy, good sleep, resiliency and improved mood, reducing the amount of anxiety you have. Not only does the oatmeal provide the raw ingredients, it also helps with production and delivery.
Put a little yogurt on your oatmeal or eat it later in the day.
Your gut plays an important role in anxiety. If you have healthy gut bacteria, you’ll produce and metabolize the serotonin properly. Eating sauerkraut and other fermented foods can help. Eliminating added sugar from your diet also helps. Beneficial microbes are also increased when you workout regularly. For more serotonin, cut back on dairy, include pumpkin seeds in your diet and sprinkle some turmeric on your food to thwart inflammation.
- Studies show that exercise can be extremely beneficial for mild depression and anxiety. One study showed it was as good as some medications. It not only helps build gut bacteria, it boosts circulation to the brain.
- Oatmeal can also help you lower cholesterol levels with its beta-glucan fiber and boosts your immune system with antioxidants. The antioxidants help prevent the LDL—bad cholesterol—from oxidizing and causing inflammation, tissue damage and increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Make your oatmeal from whole oats, which contain avenanthramides, which increase nitric oxide levels for a better workout and lower blood pressure. Only oats contain this ingredient.
- Try overnight oats if you’re in a hurry or want to have oats ready to eat in seconds. Mix a 1 to 1 ratio of milk and oats. Keep it in the refrigerator covered overnight and it’s ready to eat. Steel cut oats should have 2 days or more to be their best.
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