Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Foods to Help Relieve Stress and Anxiety

Think of the food you consume as the building blocks of your body—opting for healthy, high-quality nourishment is akin to selecting premium materials for construction. Just as top-tier materials ensure a sturdy and resilient building, come rain or sunshine, nutritious food fortifies your body for any challenge. Conversely, employing cheap and subpar materials results in an unstable structure that cannot withstand the test of time. Similarly, inadequate nourishment leaves your body vulnerable to deterioration and health issues.

Anxiety, an umbrella term used to describe various disorders affects about 7.3% of the world’s population. It generally manifests as persistent tension, worry and nervousness, disrupting your daily functioning. 

We all encounter stress and anxiety at some point in our lives and the dietary choices we make can help alleviate or worsen these emotions. Your dietary choices significantly influence your emotional state. In addition to maintaining other healthy habits such as regular physical activity and sufficient sleep, consuming balanced meals and snacks can play a vital role in promoting your mental well-being. 

For example, if you’re faced with a stressful situation, the temptation to indulge in a sugary glazed doughnut or thick slice of chocolate cake is high and appealing. But here’s something you may not know- it’s unlikely to uplift your spirits and may even leave you feeling irritable and tired.

I’m here to tell you about the numerous foods that can enhance your brain function and alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety. 

Add these brain-boosting foods to your meal plan today! 

Sweet potatoes​

These vibrant orange gems contain abundant complex carbohydrates that prompt the brain to generate serotonin, a chemical known for its mood-stabilizing properties. Studies highlight that elements within sweet potatoes aid in reducing cortisol levels, a hormone crucial for managing stress responses. Additionally, sweet potatoes boast a high magnesium content, recognized as a top mineral for fostering tranquility and enhancing your mood.

Fatty fish like salmon

Salmon, rich in omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA, along with vitamin D is known to reduce your anxiety by regulating neurotransmitters and lowering inflammation in your body. These nutrients support your brain health, enhancing your adaptability to stressors and potentially alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. Including salmon in your diet 2–3 times per week, along with other omega-3-rich foods, can significantly improve your mental health and stress. 

Spinach​

Spinach, a leafy green abundant in magnesium, plays a vital role in alleviating stress and anxiety. Its significant vitamin C content further contributes to stress reduction. Moreover, spinach is rich in folate, which helps your body produce more dopamine thereby facilitating better brain communication. Integrate raw spinach into your diet to optimize its advantages, or consider adding other magnesium-rich leafy greens such as kale or swiss chard to enhance your tranquility and overall well being.

Blueberries

Blueberries have a wealth of vitamin C and various antioxidants like flavonoids, renowned for their potential to enhance your brain function and alleviate anxiety. Research also suggests that a higher consumption of fruits, including blueberries, may correlate with reduced anxiety. Incorporating blueberries into your diet offers stress relief, as they are packed with antioxidants that effectively stave off cell damage and delay its onset.

Avocados​

The soft, pale-green flesh concealed beneath a resilient shell serves as an excellent source of B vitamins, integral in the production of brain chemicals that do away with stress and enhance your mood. Some of these naturally occurring compounds also contribute to anxiety prevention and the alleviation of irritability. Additionally, avocados offer lutein, a nutrient vital for both brain and eye health, enhancing memory and problem-solving abilities. Avocados are rich in unsaturated fats, often referred to as “good fats,” as they aid in improving your blood cholesterol levels and stabilizing your heart rhythms. 

Chamomile

Chamomile, an herb with potential anxiety-reducing properties, contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that are known to alleviate anxiety-related inflammation. While the exact mechanisms remain unclear, chamomile is thought to modulate neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, as well as regulate your body’s stress response through the HPA axis. Chamomile tea is praised for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant and relaxant qualities, with flavonoids believed to contribute to its calming and anxiety-reducing effects. Overall, chamomile tea could be beneficial in managing anxiety, offering a readily available and safe herbal remedy, even in high doses.

Oranges and grapefruit

A medium-sized orange or grapefruit offers more than half of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, an antioxidant crucial for the body’s stress response and mood enhancement. Studies indicate that high levels of vitamin C could potentially alleviate stress. Vitamin C supplementation also shows promise in improving symptoms of stress-related disorders like anxiety and depression. Incorporating vitamin C-rich fruits such as oranges, grapefruits and strawberries into your diet can be extremely beneficial in managing your anxiety and caliming your mind. 

Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are rich in selenium, which can enhance your mood by reducing inflammation and preventing cell damage. While other sources like nuts, animal products and vegetables also provide selenium, it’s crucial not to exceed the recommended daily limit of 400 micrograms to avoid any side effects. 

Squash

​All types of squash like pumpkin, dudhi/ lauki also known as summer squash, tinda, butternut, acorn, delicata and hubbard, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. These Omega-3s protect your body against chronic stress and are an important dietary addition for your brain health as well as your heart health. 

Green tea

Green tea is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid studied for its potential benefits on brain health and anxiety. Additionally, it contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant known to support brain health and potentially reduce symptoms by boosting GABA levels in the brain. The combination of L-theanine, EGCG, and other compounds in green tea seems to work together synergistically to promote calmness and alleviate any trace of anxiety. 

Yellow bell peppers​

While oranges are often praised for their vitamin C content, yellow bell peppers have nearly double the amount and significantly less sugar. Vitamin C plays a crucial role in supporting your immune system and regulating your cortisol levels.  

Turmeric

Turmeric, a spice containing curcumin, has garnered attention for its potential in enhancing brain health and mitigating anxiety disorders. Renowned for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin aids in shielding your brain cells from damage caused by inflammation and oxidative stress. Adding turmeric to your diet is worth considering, and for enhanced curcumin absorption, pairing it with black pepper can do wonders. 

Eggs​

Eggs, abundant in tryptophan and vitamin D, play a pivotal role in enhancing your brain health and regulating your mood by facilitating serotonin production, thus promoting stress relief and safeguarding your memory. Including eggs in your diet, especially those from pasture-raised hens is a great source of protein and nutritional richness.

Yogurt

Probiotics in yogurt can positively impact your mental health by supporting the gut-brain axis, potentially reducing inflammation and enhancing the production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin. To reap these benefits, opt for yogurt with live active cultures, as not all varieties contain probiotics.

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds, rich in potassium,  aid in electrolyte balance and blood pressure regulation, potentially reducing your stress and anxiety symptoms. Additionally, their zinc content supports brain and nerve development, with significant zinc storage in brain regions associated with your emotions.

Beets​

Feeling anxious and stressed? Combat it with a bid serving of beets. Incorporating magnesium-rich beets into your diet, boosts your serotonin levels which are crucial to regulate your mood and reduce anxiety. Beets also offer folate, aiding in serotonin production alongside other dark leafy greens and hearty vegetables.

Broccoli​

Broccoli, a fast-growing vegetable, is an excellent source of vitamin C, containing nearly twice as much as oranges, crucial for stress reduction, and provides a notable amount of magnesium, vital for stress resilience and symptom management of depression.

Almonds​

Boost your stress resilience with almonds, rich in B vitamins, vitamin E and healthy fats. Almonds offer mood-boosting properties and aiding brain function.

Dark chocolate

Enjoying dark chocolate in moderation, with at least 70% cocoa content, can potentially alleviate your anxiety and improve your mood through its flavonol-rich composition by offering neuroprotective effects and enhancing your brain function.

Water

Water may decrease your anxiety by working with the brain. Drinking water helps your brain get nutrients and energy for proper functioning.

The bottom line —

While you may not have control over anxiety-triggering emails flooding your inbox, you do have the power to choose what you eat. Choose foods that are good for managing your stress and anxiety

Keep in mind that everything works together.  A nutritious diet supports your ability to exercise and to exercise properly you need to sleep well and enough. All of this together can help you tackle stress and anxiety more effectively.

Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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