5 Foods that Help Decrease Stress and Anxiety

5 Foods that Help Decrease Stress and Anxiety | NatraCure

Key Takeaways:

  • Diet can impact anxiety: Certain foods can help reduce anxiety, while others may worsen it.
  • Focus on these anxiety-reducing foods: Berries, leafy greens, bananas, salmon, and dark chocolate.
  • Limit these anxiety-increasing foods: Processed foods, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and high-fat foods.
  • Gut health is linked to anxiety: A healthy gut microbiome can contribute to better mental well-being.
  • Consider consulting a healthcare professional: They can offer personalized advice on managing anxiety through diet and other strategies

Food for Anxiety

40 million people. or 18% of the adult population, struggle with anxiety.

Ever find yourself trying to decide between tackling someone or running for dear life? Well that might be the cortisol talking. Cortisol is a stress hormone created by the body when the brain senses danger. You might know it as a fight-or-flight reaction. The body is on alert, and when cortisol levels are high, it can unfortunately cause damage to the body.

This chemical signal was necessary when ancestors hunted for food and needed to outrun predators. Present-day contributors to stress (deadlines, relationship problems, and bills) typically aren’t an actual threat, but high cortisol levels that rise in your body are. Research shows what you eat directly affects levels of cortisol produced. Thus, you have the power to decrease stress and anxiety.

Only a third of people dealing with stress and anxiety will seek medical treatment, including therapy and medication. Thankfully, there is a natural option that helps lower cortisol levels: The foods you eat!

If you are a stress eater, you aren't alone. Many people are triggered by daily life and turn to food for comfort. High-sugar food, fried greasy food, and caffeine provide short-term comfort, but contribute to serious long-term health problems.

5 Foods that Help Decrease Stress and Anxiety

  1. Berries: Kiwi, pineapples, strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are high in vitamin C. High levels of this vitamin not only help reduce stress and blood pressure, but also boost your mood.
  2. Leafy greens: Magnesium is a mineral that can help increase serotonin levels, which helps reduces stress, relax muscles, and improve sleep. Foods high in magnesium are green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, nuts, seeds, dry beans, and potatoes.
  3. Bananas: Bananas, mushrooms, chickpeas, and avocados contain high levels of Vitamin B. This helps increase the body's natural feel-good hormone dopamine, which is one of four feel-good hormones (dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin) associated with the body's natural reward system.
  4. Salmon: Omega 3 fatty acids can help reduce stress, anxiety, and inflammation. A 2019 Harvard study shows consuming up to 2,000 mg daily seems to have the most impact on reducing anxiety. Foods with omega 3 include salmon, flaxseeds, walnuts, edamame, and beans.
  5. Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate is a feel-good treat that offers more than something sweet to eat! It helps improves your mood. Look for chocolates that have at least 70% cacao. They offer more flavor and less sugar.

What are the best foods to eat for reducing anxiety?

The best foods for reducing anxiety include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and chia seeds, which have been shown to help regulate mood. Other anxiety-reducing foods include dark chocolate, yogurt, and green tea, all of which contain compounds that promote relaxation and reduce stress.

Incorporating these foods into your diet along with a balanced meal plan can contribute to managing anxiety symptoms naturally. Remember that individual responses to foods may vary, so it's essential to find what works best for you through experimentation and possibly consultation with a healthcare provider or nutritionist.

Is it true that certain foods worsen anxiety and others have a calming effect?

Yes, it is true that certain foods can worsen anxiety while others have a calming effect. Foods high in sugar, caffeine, and processed ingredients may contribute to increased anxiety levels, while foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and antioxidants can have a calming effect on the body and mind.

Some examples of foods that may worsen anxiety include sugary snacks, caffeinated beverages, and processed foods high in trans fats. On the other hand, foods that may help reduce anxiety include fatty fish like salmon, leafy greens like spinach, nuts and seeds, and herbal teas like chamomile or green tea. Making healthy dietary choices can play a role in managing anxiety levels along with other lifestyle changes and professional support if needed.

Could processed foods, such as hot dogs, sausage, pie, and cakes, cause anxiety after eating?

While there is no direct link between processed foods like hot dogs, sausage, pie, and cakes causing anxiety after eating, some studies suggest that diet may play a role in mental health. Processed foods are generally low in essential nutrients and can be high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and additives, which may contribute to overall feelings of discomfort or unease in some individuals.

It's important to maintain a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to support both physical and mental well-being. If you have concerns about how certain foods may be affecting your mood or anxiety levels, consider keeping a food diary to track your symptoms and consult with a healthcare provider or nutritionist for personalized advice.

What is the best diet for anxiety?

A diet that is rich in whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, can help support mental health and reduce anxiety symptoms. Some key components of the best diet for anxiety include:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts can help reduce inflammation in the brain and support overall brain health. A 2011 study highlighted the connection between omega-3s and their ability to potentially reduce anxiety.
  2. Foods rich in magnesium, such as leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, can help regulate neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation. A 2020 study found that people who consumed higher levels of nuts and legumes were 66% less likely to experience anxiety than those who had less.
  3. Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi can support gut health, which is linked to mental health.
  4. Foods high in antioxidants like berries, dark chocolate, and green tea can help protect the brain from oxidative stress.

In addition to focusing on these nutrient-dense foods, it's also important to limit or avoid processed foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats, as they can contribute to inflammation and worsen anxiety symptoms.

Staying hydrated and avoiding excessive caffeine and alcohol intake can also support overall mental well-being. Remember that individual dietary needs may vary, so it's a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for personalized recommendations tailored to your specific needs.

Does a healthy diet help anxiety?

Yes, maintaining a healthy diet can play a significant role in managing anxiety. Certain foods and nutrients have been linked to improved mood and reduced anxiety levels. A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help support overall mental health and well-being.

Some foods that are particularly beneficial for reducing anxiety include those high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as fatty fish), complex carbohydrates (like whole grains), foods rich in magnesium (such as nuts and seeds), and those containing antioxidants (like berries).

Additionally, staying hydrated and limiting the intake of caffeine and alcohol can also contribute to better management of anxiety symptoms. It's important to remember that while diet can have an impact on anxiety, it is just one aspect of a comprehensive approach to managing this condition.

If you are experiencing persistent or severe anxiety symptoms, it's recommended to seek professional help from a healthcare provider or mental health professional.

What foods and drinks cause anxiety?

Certain foods and drinks can potentially contribute to feelings of anxiety in some individuals. These substances include:

  1. Caffeine: Found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and some sodas, caffeine is a stimulant that can increase heart rate and contribute to feelings of jitteriness or anxiousness.
  2. Alcohol: While alcohol is a depressant, consuming it in excess or using it as a coping mechanism can lead to increased anxiety levels.
  3. Sugar: Foods high in sugar can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels, leading to mood swings and potential feelings of anxiety.
  4. Processed foods: Some processed foods contain artificial additives and preservatives that may negatively impact mental health in some individuals.
  5. High-fat foods: Diets high in saturated fats have been linked to increased levels of anxiety and stress.

It's important to remember that the relationship between food/drink and anxiety can vary from person to person, so it's essential to pay attention to how your body responds to different substances and make dietary choices that support your overall well-being.

What is the connection between gut health and anxiety, and how does food play a role in this?

Research has shown that there is a strong connection between gut health and anxiety. The gut is often referred to as the "second brain" because it contains millions of neurons that communicate with the brain through the gut-brain axis. Imbalances in the gut microbiome, which consists of trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms, have been linked to mental health disorders such as anxiety.

Food plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. A diet rich in fiber, fruits, vegetables, and probiotic-rich foods can help promote good gut health. On the other hand, a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut and contribute to inflammation, which may exacerbate symptoms of anxiety.

By paying attention to your diet and choosing foods that support a healthy gut, you can potentially improve your overall well-being, including mental health. It's important to consult with a healthcare provider or nutritionist for personalized advice on how to optimize your diet for gut health and manage anxiety effectively.

Are there any specific vitamins or minerals that can help with anxiety, and what foods contain them?

There are several vitamins and minerals that are believed to help with anxiety. Some of these include:

  1. Vitamin B Complex: B vitamins, such as B12 and B6, play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. A Vitamin B deficiency has been found to trigger depression in some people.
  2. Magnesium: Magnesium is important for overall brain health and may help reduce anxiety symptoms.
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s are essential fats that have been linked to reduced anxiety symptoms.
  4. Zinc: Zinc plays a role in regulating the brain and nervous system function.

Foods that contain these vitamins and minerals include:

  • Vitamin B Complex: Whole grains, meat, eggs, leafy greens
  • Magnesium: Nuts, seeds, whole grains, spinach
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel), flaxseeds, chia seeds
  • Zinc: Meat (beef, lamb), shellfish (oysters, crab), nuts

Incorporating a variety of these nutrient-rich foods into your diet may help support your mental well-being and potentially reduce feelings of anxiety.

How long does it take for dietary changes to have an impact on anxiety symptoms?

The time it takes for dietary changes to have an impact on anxiety symptoms can vary from person to person. Some individuals may notice improvements in their anxiety symptoms within a few weeks of making dietary changes, while others may take longer to experience noticeable benefits. It is important to be patient and consistent with dietary modifications, as the effects on anxiety symptoms may not be immediate or drastic.

In addition to dietary changes, it is recommended to consult with a healthcare provider or nutritionist for personalized advice and guidance on managing anxiety through diet and lifestyle modifications.

Hopefully you'll now have an easier time identifying foods you should eat and the ones to avoid. And all of these healthy options are readily available. Make small and intentional changes to your diet and you'll have a much better chance of lowering stress and anxiety. Good luck!