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What you eat and drink can contribute to or lessen the anxiety and stress you experience. While eliminating stress entirely is not realistic, improving nutritional intake can help to bolster your diet — providing proper nutrients which are supportive to a healthier mood and a calmer outlook on life. Here are 8 foods to add to your diet and 2 foods to avoid to help beat anxiety and conquer stress.
Feeling tense and on edge? Magnesium-rich foods like Swiss chard may be just what you need. Dark leafy greens are not only a rich source of disease-preventing antioxidants but they also contain ample doses of magnesium, the anti-stress mineral. A deficiency in this micronutrient is prevalent in cultures who rely on processed foods and lack adequate fresh foods in the daily diet. Magnesium plays a role in regulating normal heart contractions as well as promoting relaxing of muscles throughout the body.
Wild-caught fish and particularly salmon are packed full of the brain-supportive omega-3 fats, EPA, and DHA. It is necessary to attain these nourishing fats from the foods we eat because our bodies will not produce them otherwise. Anxiety and depression can be kept in check with adequate intake of wild salmon and other fatty fish which deliver these mood-boosting nutrients.
This member of the carrot family is a nutritional powerhouse — supplying many vitamins and minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients. Vitamin C, in particular, is plentiful in this chlorophyll-rich herb — a favorite choice for those who juice. During times of stress and anxiety, vitamin C reserves in the body are used. Not only is this nutrient important for boosting immune health, but it quells inflammation. Chronically elevated stress hormones could potentially lead to chronic inflammation — not a good thing.
Turkey provides not only a good source of protein but also l-tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin and a “feel good” hormone, which promotes rejuvenating sleep while also staving off lulls in mood and/or anxiety.
More than ever there is evolving science showing a link between gut and brain health. The many types of healthy bacteria that dwell within our intestines may play more than just a role in regulating healthy elimination and immune function. These gut flora help send chemical messages to the brain, and particularly areas which control stress response and mood regulation. Ensuring a healthy intake of probiotics from fermented and cultured foods such as yogurt, will help to support this gut-brain connection.
Did you know that this superfood contains more vitamin C than an orange? But why is vitamin C so important for mood and anxiety? The adrenals, responsible for stress hormone production house a storage site for vitamin C, and during times of intense stress and anxiety this nutrient helps to manufacture cortisol, a key stress hormone. There are some studies also showing vitamin C may help to keep blood pressure within a normal range.
Relax and unwind at night’s end with a cup of this herbal favorite known for its calming and sedative-like properties. Some studies have found that compounds in this plant may have an anxiolytic effect, helping to relieve symptoms associated with anxiety. It is also known to possess anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties helping to relax smooth muscles of the intestines and soothe episodes of stress-induced tummy aches.
Also known as holy basil, tulsi is a plant prized for its many medicinal attributes in India. It is in a category of herbs classified as adaptogens, which help the body adapt to stress demands. Drinking this ancient herb in tea form can help to decrease stress hormones, uplift mood, and promote healthy sustained energy levels. Try the teas from Gaia or Organic India.
Ditch the Sugar
Taking precaution to regulate your sugar intake is especially important if you suffer from anxiety and/or depression. Besides burdening the liver and contributing to unwanted fat stores, excess sugar consumption can increase the body’s production of adrenaline and stress hormones which left unchecked can tax the adrenals and contribute to anxiety. Deluging your body with the sweet stuff wrecks your blood sugar and energy levels, surely affecting your mood and brain health as well.
While a cocktail at happy hour with friends can help take the edge off when you are overworked and highly stressed, overindulging can provoke anxiety symptoms while also depleting nutrients in the body that help to combat slumps in mood in the first place. Drinking can deplete magnesium and zinc, minerals which play a role in stress and immune function respectively, as well as certain B vitamins which promote sound brain and nerve functioning.
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I am a nutrition educator/consultant and not a physician. As such, I do not diagnose or treat disease, rather I support lifestyle balance and health with my work. Please understand that any information provided on the relationship between nutrition and health is not meant to replace competent medical treatment for any health problem or condition.