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What makes those foods so powerfully calming? Based on this study alone, the authors can't say for sure, but previous research points the finger at probiotics, the good-for-you bacteria found in fermented foods. "Social anxiety has gastrointestinal symptoms," says lead author Matthew Hilimire, assistant professor of psychology at the College of William & Mary, "and probiotics have been shown to reduce gut inflammation. So as the gut becomes less inflamed, some of those anxiety-related symptoms are reduced."
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Eating probiotics has also been shown to affect brain chemistry in a major way, triggering a neurotransmitter called GABA that calms the nervous system—the exact same neurotransmitter targeted by antianxiety drugs like Valium, Hilimire explains. The researchers hope that fermented foods could someday be a low-risk treatment for anxiety.
Cash in on the calming effects with this smoothie developed by Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of The SuperfoodsRx Diet. It gets a boost of probiotics from kefir, and it's loaded with even more calming foods, including:
- Strawberries and orange juice: Both rich in vitamin C, shown to ease stress and reduce blood pressure
- Avocado: Loaded with an array of nutrients (like potassium and folate) that help keep blood pressure in check
- Ginger: A well-known remedy for easing digestive distress
- Chamomile tea: A folk remedy that may help calm nerves
Related: 26 Best Foods For A Healthier, Happier Gut
Easy Calming Smoothie
Add ½ ripe avocado, ½ banana, ½ cup cooled chamomile tea, ½ cup 100 percent orange juice, ¼ cup kefir, ½ cup strawberries, ⅛ teaspoon fresh ginger, and 1 tablespoon honey (optional) to a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
And get plenty of probiotics with this delicious soup recipe:
Probiotic Packed Miso Soup
1 small kabocha or acorn squash, seeded and cut into ½ inch cubes
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
1½ teaspoon ground turmeric
4 cups water
8 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
4 tablespoon yellow miso paste
4 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed
2 scallions, julienned
1. Place the squash, mushrooms, turmeric, and water in a large soup pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook soba noodles in a large pot per package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water.
3. Dilute the miso paste in a bowl with a little hot broth shortly before serving, and then stir into soup. Add snap peas to the soup pot at this time as well.
4. Divide the soba noodles among four bowls, ladle the soup broth over the top, and finish with some julienned scallions.
This article was originally published by our partners at Prevention.