Isn’t it funny how, when you were younger, you couldn’t wait to be old enough to sit in the front seat? Then you couldn’t wait to be old enough to drive a car, stay out past 11 p.m., move out, and be an “adult.” Yet, in all of this wishing for the next exciting phase of your life, no one told you how much more stress and how many more daily challenges you would face the older you got. With age, you gain more responsibilities. With more responsibilities, you have more things to worry about.
Which types of foods can you eat to reduce your anxiety?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States in varying capacities. What causes anxiety is different from person to person. It is usually a combination of factors, from genetics, brain chemistry, and life events to personality and, the most common, stress. Stress isn’t always a bad thing, but if it interferes with your ability to go through your daily routine, it can be dangerous. Long-term stress can have greater effects on your health.
According to Mayo Clinic, stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. Here are some of the common symptoms of stress:
Common effects of stress on your body
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problems
Common effects of stress on your mood
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
Common effects of stress on your behavior
- Overeating or undereating
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco use
- Social withdrawal
- Exercising less often
People manage their stress and anxiety levels differently. Some take up hobbies, such as reading or playing a musical instrument. Others take to the outdoors for exposure to nature and exercise. Some go to food for anxiety relief. And if the food is comfort food, filled with heavy creams, sugar, and empty calories, you are doing the opposite of what your body needs. Believe it or not, researchers have found that there are certain foods and dietary changes that can reduce chronic stress and anxiety.
If you experience high levels of stress or anxiety, you can make changes in your diet that could make a big difference. Eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine are some of the dietary considerations Harvard Medical School says you should start with.
In addition, Harvard says incorporating these foods into your diet can help “quell” your anxiety.
- Foods naturally rich in magnesium help people feel calmer. These include leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains
- Foods rich in zinc, such as oysters, cashews, liver, beef, and egg yolks, have been linked to lowered anxiety
- Foods containing omega-3 fatty acid, including fatty fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, may also help reduce anxiety
- Eating probiotic-rich foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, and kefir was linked with fewer symptoms of social anxiety
- Asparagus has been known to contain anti-anxiety properties
- Foods rich in B vitamins, including avocado and almonds, help the brain release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine that help in managing anxiety
Harvard Medical School also notes the correlation between anxiety and a lowered total antioxidant state, which has led to the idea that enhancing your diet with foods rich in antioxidants could ease anxiety. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated these foods as high in antioxidants:
- 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 antioxidant and anti-anxiety properties include turmeric and ginger
Be sure to talk to your doctor if your anxiety symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks. Only about a third of people who suffer from anxiety seek treatment. Don’t let yourself carry the burden of anxiety longer than you have to. Seek help when you need it!