The healthy caffeine-free foods can give you a natural high

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These nutritious ingredients can give you an all-natural buzz....

Kale, leafy green vegetables

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Sorry to disappoint you, but if you're here to discover how smoking banana skins or foraging for wild mushrooms can get you high (as in illegal drug high) then this isn't the story for you.

We're talking about natural highs - the foods that can give you a nutritional buzz that tricks your body and brain into feeling pretty darn wonderful for a few hours. A happy side effect is that they're all low in calories, so eat to your heart's content.

Here's the basic science. Serotonin is like chocolate for the brain and it helps to control our mood, emotions and sleep patterns, but to process serotonin you need to eat L-tryptophan - an amino acid - and vitamins B3 and B6.

Now that you know the 101 of natural highs, here's what you need to munch on...

1. Spinach

It's easy, just mix it into your morning omelette, add it to a curry, throw it on a chicken sandwich or drink it in a smoothie. Spinach is rich in phenylethylamine, a chemical compound that (as a result of loads of science that we don't quite understand) has a mild anti-depressant effect. It's also full of magnesium that helps to support biochemical reactions in the brain.

2. Avocado

Avocados are seriously versatile, just take a look at these recipes, but they're also full of 'happy' ingredients like vitamin B3 and B6. They also contain Omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation and give your heart health a boost. Mix with bananas, raspberries and strawberries for a delish morning smoothie instead of a cappuccino.

3. Asparagus

Simply grilled or chopped into chicken pies, asparagus spears are delicious, low in calories and full of fibre. They're also full of L-tryptophan, folic acid and vitamin C, which spark the production of serotonin. You'll be bouncing off the walls in no time.

4. Superfoods

Chia seeds, goji berries, sesame seeds, flax seeds, walnuts - these superfoods are densely packed with nutrients - the kind that you will never ever find in a microwave meal and a bottle of wine. If you want to increase your intake of superfoods start here and then take a look at the cholesterol-lowering options in the gallery below...



5. Kale

It's true, citrus fruits and bell peppers contain loads of antioxidants that fight off all the nasty free radicals in your blood stream. But did you know leafy green veggies like kale can do the same? Stock up on broccoli (grate it into pasta sauce and you'll never notice it), Swiss chard, lettuce, cabbage and turnip greens.

6. Mussels

These little fishy wonders can be thrown into creamy white wine pasta sauces or served as a starter with garlic and parsley. They contain trace amounts of zinc, iodine and selenium, fatty acids and B vitamins, which help to keep the thyroid in check. This tiny gland in the brain is like the CPU of your mood computer - the better looked after it is, the better your mood will be.

Will you be giving these a try?

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