Whenever I'm having a night where I feel especially stressed out, I tend to gravitate toward the foods I love most, like gnocchi, or just about any kind of taco ever invented. And while I have no qualms about filling my body with things I enjoy, eating foods that don't have a ton of extra nutritional value doesn't always make me feel less anxious, especially when I'm having a particularly rough day. Thankfully, experts say there are plenty of ingredients that relieve stress, that can easily be added into the meals you already love to prepare for yourself. For instance, the next time I'm craving gnocchi after a hard day, I might just add some spinach on the side to help me chill out even more (more on the stress-relieving powers of this leafy green in a bit).
"It is best to try and incorporate these ingredients into your diet on a daily basis for maximum health benefits," Melissa Eboli, a certified nutritional chef and certified nutrition and wellness counselor, tells Elite Daily in an email. In other words, some of these ingredients can work instantaneously, but eating them on a regular basis will do the most to drive away anxiety.
Luckily, these ingredients are pretty tasty, so mixing them into one of your favorite meals won't detract from the tastes you already love. Turn on your favorite podcast, light a soothing candle, and get cooking.
You might not have heard of this ingredient before, but it really packs a punch, so be sure to look for it in your local grocery store.
"Ashwagandha is an ancient plant that has been utilized and revered in India for thousands of years," Erin Stokes, a registered naturopathic doctor and medical director at MegaFood, tells Elite Daily in an email. "I find that its ability to strengthen the nervous system and soothe anxiety is unparalleled."
The herb is often available in a powder form, so try adding a small amount to your next smoothie, mixing it with coconut water for a refreshing drink, or mixing it into your morning yogurt.
Eboli suggests using CBD in your meals if you're struggling with stress. The hemp oil, which is a legal type of cannabis that doesn't actually get you high, can be used to make anything from cookies to a breakfast sandwich, and it can reduce your stress levels in a matter of minutes, Eboli tells Elite Daily.
While the ingredient has some calming benefits, check with your doctor before you experiment with it if you're worried about any potential side effects.
"Green leafy vegetables like spinach contain folate, which produces dopamine, a pleasure-inducing brain chemical, helping you keep calm," Heather Mangieri, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Health.
For those days when you just don't feel like eating a pile of raw spinach, try blending some of the veggie into a smoothie, or stirring it into a tofu scramble. If you don't love the taste of the greens, it's totally fine to mask the flavor a little bit by combining it with some of your other favorite ingredients. Plus, the fact that spinach wilts down to practically nothing when you heat it up makes it even easier to eat plenty of the veggie.
If you're a chocoholic (girl, I totally feel you), tackle your stress by snacking on a few pieces of your favorite bar. Eboli explains that this decadent ingredient is great for keeping your stress to a minimum, especially if it's of a dark variety.
Of course, you can mix in the sweet treat with just about any dessert you make, but I personally love unsweetened chocolate as a savory ingredient. Try your hand at a rich chicken mole if you're ready to embark on a journey that brings chocolate into every meal.