Let Food Be Thy Medicine: 8 Best Foods To Reduce Stress And Anxiety
Stress and anxiety affect every one of us. According to a new global study by Gallup, one in three people in the world is becoming more anxious and stressed out. Furthermore, the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has worsened mental health issues.
While a little stress can motivate you to complete your work more effectively, excessive stress and long-term repetition can lead to unhealthy habits affecting your overall health, such as weakened immune system, increased risk of heart disease, persistent muscle pains in certain areas such as the neck, shoulder, back, or eating and sleeping disorders.
Stress in our everyday life is inevitable, but research published in UCLA Center East-West Medicine has shown that some foods have been scientifically shown to help you feel less stressed and anxious.
The healing properties of food have been reported by cultures worldwide throughout history. According to a 2016 study in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences, a balanced and nutritious diet may be the most important factor for having good health.
The following 7 foods have shown to help reduce stress and improve your quality of life.
Ideas For Fitting Exercise Into Your Day:
Probiotics Can Create A Healthy Gut Microbiota Helping You Manage Stress
The best way to support healthy gut hormones is with good-for-you bacteria called probiotics, Figueroa says. According to Harvard Health Publishing, probiotics can help boost the immune system, protect against harmful bacteria, and improve digestion and absorption of nutrients. An article published in December 2018 in University Health News cited several studies that found gut health has a direct correlation to improving anxiety, depression, and mood. One way is that gut bacteria can produce molecules with neuroactive functions, including serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid , which positively influence mood.
Probiotics can be available in supplement form, but its unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the pills can be more expensive than their food form, Figueroa says. Some of the top-rated brands run for more than $40 for a months supply, for instance.
Fortunately, probiotics occur naturally in food, too, and appear to be slightly better than the pill form, though both are efficient carriers for good bacteria, according to a study published in August 2014 in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
Figueroas favorite is kefir, a fermented yogurt drink, which is available in both dairy and vegan forms. She also recommends yogurt and fermented foods, including kombucha and miso, a Japanese fermented bean paste that can be found in miso soup.
Also Check: How To Help Someone With Stress And Anxiety
Certain Foods And Nutrients May Help Support Your Body In Reducing Anxiety And Improving How Your Body Handles Stress
The spices saffron and turmeric may reduce both depression and anxiety. Additionally, some research suggests that ginger may be effective in reducing anxiety, as well.
The spices saffron and turmeric may reduce both depression and anxiety. Additionally, some research suggests that ginger may be effective in reducing anxiety, as well.
This article was originally published in the Healthy Aging Initiative‘s . The Initiative, an offering of Extension, provides physical activity and nutrition education and health promotion to elders throughout Nevada.
There is no magic pill or remedy for anxiety. There is also no guarantee that you can always stay out of stressful situations. However, there is some good research that certain foods and nutrients may help support your body in reducing anxiety and improving how your body handles stress. Here is a list of some food and nutrients that may help support your mental and emotional health.
How do those milligrams equate to food and portion size? A handful of almonds has 80 milligrams, a half-cup of boiled spinach has 78 milligrams, a half-cup of cooked black beans has 60 milligrams and two tablespoons of peanut butter has 49 milligrams. The proper amount of magnesium can also assist with reducing inflammation, managing the hormone cortisol, and relaxing the body and mind.
Foods That Help Reduce Stress And Anxiety
While there is no specific diet that can cure stress and anxiety, there are some foods that may help. Here are some foods worth trying to help improve your well-being:
A Mediterranean-type diet high in omega-3 fatty acid
Consuming omega-3 rich foods along with supplemental fish oil may reduce anxiety and depression symptoms. Such foods include:
- Fish: salmon, tuna and sardines
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds
Foods high in vitamins A, C and E
Foods high in antioxidants such as beta-carotene , vitamin C and vitamin E can help prevent cell damage to the brain. Such foods include:
- Vegetables: asparagus, carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli and leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Fruits: strawberries, citrus fruits, papaya, cantaloupe and apricots
- Nuts and seeds: almonds and sunflower seeds
Foods high in vitamin B
Several studies have linked high doses of vitamin B with reduced symptoms of stress. Foods rich in vitamin B can also aid in heart and brain function. Such foods include:
- Lean proteins: chicken, fish, eggs and turkey
- Fortified cereals
You May Like: Where To Find Stress Balls In Walmart
Should Antioxidants Be Included In Your Anti
Anxiety is thought to be correlated with a lowered total antioxidant state. It stands to reason, therefore, that enhancing your diet with foods rich in antioxidants may help ease the symptoms of anxiety disorders. A 2010 study reviewed the antioxidant content of 3,100 foods, spices, herbs, beverages, and supplements. Foods designated as high in antioxidants by the USDA include:
- Beans: Dried small red, Pinto, black, red kidney
- Fruits: Apples , prunes, sweet cherries, plums, black plums
- Berries: Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries
- Nuts: Walnuts, pecans
- Vegetables: Artichokes, kale, spinach, beets, broccoli
- Spices with both antioxidant and anti-anxiety properties include turmeric and ginger.
Stress Management Made Simple Through Healthy Eating
Although it may seem like the best idea to reach for that chocolate bar, glass of alcohol, or bag of chips, these are all foods which will only keep your body in a stressed-out state. Enjoying calming foods packed with vitamins to reduce stress.
Eating these foods daily can also allow your body to be better prepared when stressful events occur. And youll bounce back much quicker as well.
You May Like: How To Get Rid Of Stress Wrinkles
Foods Effect On Stress And Anxiety
What we eat has a direct impact on mental and physical health. Some foods can worsen feelings of stress and anxiety, while others provide relief. According to an article in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences, A nutritious, well-balanced diet has powerful stress-reducing benefits that improve brain functioning, shore up immune function, lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and reduce toxins from the body. Some specific nutrients play a very specific and important role in stress management by reducing the levels of cortisol and adrenalin in the body and the stress chemicals that activate fight and flight response .
Below are important nutrients that promote calm feelings and capability to cope with lifes stressors. This list explains how components of food interact with the bodys chemistry to improve mental health.
Foods That Help With Anxiety
Diet alone may not be enough to alleviate anxiety. Certain foods, on the other hand, have a calming effect on the body, while others, once digested, produce anxiousness.
Here are a few recommendations:
- Choose foods that increase the soothing brain chemical serotonin, such as complex carbohydrates.
- Instead of sugary snacks or beverages, choose whole-grain bread and whole-grain cereals.
- Breakfast should include protein so that you have energy and your blood glucose levels remain stable.
- Alcohol and caffeine, which create anxiety after eating, should be limited or avoided.
- Both have an impact on your sleep and can make you feel jittery.
- Keep yourself hydrated. Dehydration might affect your mood.
Consider including the following foods in your diet to improve your mood:
- Folate and other B vitamins in chocolate
- foods with a low glycemic index
- Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids.
Consider including foods high in zinc in your diet. Oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks have all been linked to decreased anxiety.
If we all want to eat foods that are delicious, nutritious, and safe, try some of the following alternatives instead.
Also Check: What Are The Physical Effects Of Stress
Nuts Are A Great Stress
Nuts are full of nutrients, including B vitamins, along with healthy fatty acids. Meyerowitz says B vitamins are an important part of a healthy diet and can help reduce stress. Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts may even help lower blood pressure levels. According to a past study, pistachios in particular can have a role in reducing stress levels. Just remember to limit servings to just a handful a day to avoid excess calories.
Nuts and seeds are also high in magnesium, and thats a plus, Figueroa says, because magnesium has been linked to better anxiety management. Findings from a review published in April 2017 in the journal Nutrients suggested that magnesium benefits individuals with mild to moderate levels of anxiety, but more trials are needed before making this treatment recommendation across the board.
Can Certain Foods Increase Stress And Anxiety
When you get stressed or anxious, do you reach for something salty or sweet, or do you lace up and go for a walk or run? For many who feel stressed or anxious, especially during times like these, our natural instinct is to reach for foods for comfort and maybe even for an escape.
However, often the very things we choose to gulp down are only providing us short-term relief and may actually increase anxiety and depression in the long run. Theres a reason for this, according to Karen Hemmes, a registered dietitian at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix.
Recommended Reading: How Music Helps With Stress
Foods That Reduce Stress: The Food/mood Connection
Let food be thy medicine.
Our brains require a constant supply of fuel. The foods we eat directly influence the structure and function of our brain, as well as our mood. When we eat high-quality, nourishing foods that contain lots of vitamins and minerals, our brains function best. Alternatively, when we eat processed and refined foods, they promote inflammation, oxidative stress and mood disorders, such as anxiety.
Since our bodies produce about 95 percent of our serotonin in our gastrointestinal tract, the good bacteria in our gut highly influences our ability to produce it. Research shows that people who have higher levels of good bacteria in their guts experience lower anxiety and stress and have improved mental outlooks. By using food as our medicine, we can incorporate foods that reduce stress into our diet and get a handle on our stress and anxiety once and for all.
Quick tip: Learn about the beneficial role of hydration in anxiety and stress reduction in our free guide.
Get the guide: How to Rehydrate
Reduce These Foods To Feel Calmer
Many of our SAD foods are deceptive because they are initially pleasure-producing, but later leave us more, well, sad. Refined sugar is an example of this it gives you a huge hit of dopamine , then causes you to crash later on. If you have children, youve probably witnessed this first-hand after eating candy. This crash can make you tired, moody, and less capable of handling stress.
Don’t Miss: How To Eliminate Stress Sweat
Try Minimizing These Snacks To Reduce Stress
Not eating consistently throughout the day, as well as eating foods that are lower in fiber and higher in added sugars, can negatively affect cortisol levels. If youre stressed out, work on minimizing the following :
- Processed foods and packaged snacks high in sugar
- Processed meats high in salt
Other Foods For Anxiety And Stress
Healthy eating is one of the best ways to control anxiety and stress. In fact, one of the best things you can add to your diet is more water. Many studies have found that dehydration affects as many as 25% of those with persistent stress or more, and dehydration is known to cause more anxiety.
As for foods, anything with magnesium, vitamin B12 , zinc, and antioxidants can be beneficial for helping you deal with stress. There are also herbal supplements like kava and passionflower that may be valuable for anxiety.
You May Like: Can You Get Dandruff From Stress
Whole Grains Provide A Mood
According to prior research, carbohydrates can temporarily increase levels of serotonin, a hormone that boosts mood and reduces stress. Once serotonin levels are increased, people under stress have better concentration and focus. Just make sure to choose healthy, unrefined carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes and whole grains, for better nutrition, and limit simple carbs, such as cookies, cake, and white foods, including white pasta and white bread. Unrefined carbs cause a quick spike and crash of blood sugar, while complex carbs contain vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, and so take longer to digest and have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, according to Harvard School of Public Health.
Foods To Reduce Stress And Anxiety
There is an abundance of healthy foods to reduce stress. Not only are these great foods to reduce stress and anxiety, but they also offer many other benefits to your overall health. So instead of reaching for potato chips, chocolate, or greasy French fries, try these options. Hands down, they are the best foods to fight stress.
Read Also: What Can You Do For Hair Loss Due To Stress
Quick Ways To Reduce Stress
Taking care of your long-term mental and physical health is an important part of stress management. However, there isnt always time to take a nap, hike a fourteener, or read a novel. Thus, here are 25 ways to reduce stress in five minutes or less. From eating chocolate to meditating, there is a quick stress-relieving tactic for everyone.
1. BreatheSlow, deep breaths can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Try pranayama breathing, a yogic method that involves breathing through one nostril at a time to relieve anxiety. The technique is supposed to work the same way as acupuncture, balancing the mind and body.
2. Listen to Music No matter what the song, sometimes belting out the lyrics to a favorite tune makes everything seem all right. If youre in a public place, just listening to music can be a quick fix for a bad mood. Classical music can be especially relaxing right before bedtime.
3. Take a Quick Walk When youre feeling overwhelmed or having trouble concentrating, go for a quick stroll around the block. Youll get the benefits of alone time, physical activity, and a few minutes to gather your thoughts.
4. Find the Sun If its a sunny day, head outside for an easy way to lift your spirits. Bright light can be an effective treatment for people who suffer from depression, and can even cheer up otherwise healthy people.
8. Rub Your Feet Over a Golf Ball You can get an impromptu, relaxing foot massage by rubbing your feet back and forth over a golf ball.
12. Be Alone
Eat Well And Eat Consistently
If youre hoping to reduce stress, keep in mind this one key piece of advice: Dont skip meals. Eating on a regular schedule every three to five hours helps balance your blood sugar levels. Being in a chronic state of low blood sugar is stressful on your body and can increase cortisol, so maintaining a balanced blood sugar can go a long way.
And tempting though it may be, dont turn to supplements to get the vitamins and nutrients your body needs.
We know what impact nutrition has on your body, whereas supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, Barth says. I always tell people: Go with food first.
Recommended Reading: Can Stress Cause Late Period
When To See A Doctor For Anxiety
When a person is experiencing anxiety and stress, it is always best for them to seek out a specialist, such as a psychologist.
Sometimes, a doctor or mental health professional may recommend talk therapy such as CBT to manage anxiety and stress. Doctors or psychiatrists may prescribe medications such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors , selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , or benzodiazepines.
People should follow a doctorâs instructions when using these drugs, as they can have severe and possibly life threatening adverse effects.
Top Foods To Relieve Stress
- Asparagus can stabilize your mood
- Berries help to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels
- Nutrients in certain foods can reduce stress
Certain foods can enhance your body’s ability tohandle stress, packed with essential nutrients needed to boost your mentalstate. Try incorporating some of these foods into your diet to help relieve stress naturally.
Read Also: What To Give Dogs For Stress