Do you easily become impatient, anxious or tense? Do you often feel nervous or hyperactive? Feelings and symptoms of stress affect most of us. It’s a hallmark of 21-century living. However, before you think about filing a prescription for a tranquilizer, try foods that might help you with anxiety.
#1 – Low GI foods to balance blood sugar
The first step towards reducing anxiety is to balance your blood sugar by eating foods with a low glycemic index. Any state of anxiety is associated with the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol. These hormones have the ability to mess with your blood sugar balance.
With an anxiety attack first you are all hyped up, followed by a quick energy crash. If you now try to fix this crash with high GI foods (sugary soda, chocolate bar, etc.) this rollercoaster of energy levels will continue and make the next anxiety attack worse. Low GI foods on the contrary help to level your blood sugar.
A few vegetables and fruits that have very low GI and are nutrient dense at the same time:
Eating low GI foods alone will have a major effect in reducing anxiety. Optimum nutrition or deficiencies in nutrients play another crucial role when it comes to mood, stress and motivation.
Anxiety is a reaction of the body that involves the nervous system, hormones and neurotransmitters. All these parts and pathways require nutrients from the food we eat.
#2 – Foods with magnesium relax the mind
Magnesium helps you relax and helps to regulate cortisol (stress hormone) levels. I guess it comes to no surprise that low levels of magnesium have been commonly found in anxious people. Eat magnesium-rich foods every day.
#3 – Tryptophan the blues buster
L-tryptophan is one of nine essential amino acids and it helps the body produce serotonin. Serotonin is a calming neurotransmitter. Turkey is one of the foods that is a good source of tryptophan and some people think this is the reason why they feel sleepy and relaxed after Thanksgiving dinner.
- Mozzarella cheese
- Pumpkin seeds
- Oat bran
#4 – Mood boosters #1: B-vitamins
Niacin (B3), B6, folic acid, and B12 are your brain’s best friends. B vitamins are needed for healthy nerves and cells. A deficiency in these nutrients can cause anxiety. A deficiency in folic acid has especially been linked to depression. These foods can help you fight depression.
#5 – Mood boosters #2: Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3’s prevent cortisol and adrenaline from spiking when you feel tense. They are also essential for building and maintaining your brain. But equally important is to know that the higher the levels of omega-3’s in your body the higher the levels of serotonin. Serotonin = Happiness.
A small study from Ohio State University found a 20 percent reduction in anxiety when students implemented omega-3 fatty acids into their diet.
- Flax seeds
- Brussels Sprouts
#6 – The body’s bouncer: antioxidants
Everyone should have a bouncer that fights off stress. The antioxidants vitamin A, C, and E are the body’s bouncer. They protect the fats in the brain and are beneficial for relieving stress. Vitamin C may also counteract too much adrenalin in the body.
- Red berries
- Dark green veggies
- Green tea
#7 – Fermented foods for a happy brain-gut connection
Just like our brain our gut also have neurons that produce neurotransmitters like serotonin. Actually the brain and the gut start out as a single organ during fetal development and are still connected in a fully developed human.
So if you wondered why you feel butterflies in your stomach when your brain thinks “LOVE”, now you know. They each talk to each other. The Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility reported in 2011 that probiotic bacteria helped normalize anxiety-like behavior in mice. Natural fermented foods are a great source of probiotics.
#8 – Calming herbs
Beer lovers will like this one. Hobs is an ancient remedy that helps to calm nerves by acting directly on the central nervous system. In combination with passionflower, these two herbs have shown to be very effective for relieving anxiety. Some compounds of chamomile bind to the same brain receptors as drugs like Valium.
- Lemon balm
#9 – Magic adaptogens
Adaptogens are genius. They basically help our body to increase the level of stress tolerance. If we felt anxious at a level 6 then adaptogens might push our tolerance to a level 7. Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants that help balance, restore and protect the body.
- Maca root
- Licorice root
Food is not the only answer. To combat stress you have to learn how to relax. Breathing and mediation techniques are ways of relaxation. Floating in an Epsom salt bath can be helpful. Exposure to natural sunlight and a balanced exercise regime are important as well.