Gamma-aminobutyric acid, nicknamed GABA, regulates everything from our moods to our muscle tone, as well as our energy levels and quality of sleep. (To give you an idea of its impact, most sedatives work by affecting GABA.) GABA deficiencies have been linked to anxiety and depression, suppressed immune function, and muscle depletion, and one recent study even suggests it has cancer-fighting potential.
So, how to get more of the good stuff, you ask? Yoga is one way to raise your GABA level, according to a study last year that compared the GABA-increasing effects of yoga with those of walking. In fact, most types of exercise will up your body’s glutamine, an amino acid that our bodies use to produce GABA. Be careful not to overdo it, though - intense exercise can deplete it, and overtraining certainly will.
Certain foods are rich in glutamine, including animal and dairy protein sources, as well as certain vegetables like cabbage and beets. Don’t nuke the veggies, though – cooking them reduces their concentration of glutamine.