Stress is a constant reminder of our overactive work and lifestyles. Many of us are so busy with work and just life in general that we cause ourselves to become overwhelmed and are unable to relax. Technology is great, but we sometimes forget to unplug and take some time for ourselves. But, what if what we eat that is really what’s stressing us out?
We know that many foods and drinks can increase anxiety, such as caffeine, sugar, and alcohol. But did you know that there are foods that can help you decrease your stress levels? It may seem strange, but there really are stress-reducing foods and nutrients out there. In this post, we’ll discuss a few that can help you feel more zen.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Anything with omega-3 fatty acids are good for reducing stress and improving your mood. Your brain needs certain nutrients to help produce and distribute the right kinds of neurotransmitters that boost your mood. Since your entire nervous system is comprised mainly of fat, omega-3 fatty acids aid in the transport of these neurotransmitters. These chemicals, like serotonin, alter your brain chemistry and produce certain hormones that make you feel calm and happy. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential in making these neurotransmitters. Some things that you can eat that have omega-3 fatty acids include tuna, sardines, salmon, walnuts, soybeans, chia seeds, flax seeds, olive oil, and canola oil.
You have probably heard quite a bit of the wonderful physical benefits of probiotics, but likely less information about their effect on your mood. Yes, probiotics are important for and within your digestive system – but your digestive system actually also has a lot to do with your mood. The bacteria in your stomach are used to produce dopamine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which are responsible for keeping your mood in check. Some foods with probiotics include Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, green peas, wine, beer, and arguably many people’s favorite: dark chocolate.
While all vitamins are good for you and keep you healthy, there are certain ones such as Vitamin B2, B6, and B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, magnesium, and many more that are important in helping you fight stress and anxiety. Not only do these vitamins help your mood, but they also boost your immune system, decrease blood pressure, and can even reduce feelings of depression. Some of the best foods for these vitamins include milk (Vitamins B2 and B12, Vitamin D, potassium, and calcium), almonds (Vitamin B2 and magnesium), blueberries (Vitamin C), avocados (B vitamins), oranges (Vitamin C), and spinach (magnesium).
Most teas contain some level of caffeine, and it’s generally recommended that you avoid it for issues related to anxiety. However, many kinds of decaffeinated teas are excellent at helping reduce feelings of anxiety. You have probably heard that some people have a cup of tea before bed or during the day to help them relax. Chamomile tea (and the herb itself) has been proven to reduce anxiety, and the plant has actually been studied as a therapy for people with generalized anxiety disorder. Chamomile is also good for its antioxidants and has been shown to help reduce depression.
You may have heard that turkey makes you sleepy because it contains the amino acid tryptophan, but most people do not know that tryptophan is also in many other foods. In fact, peanuts, eggs, fish, cottage cheese, milk, yogurt, dates, oats, and even chocolate, all contain some level of tryptophan. Tryptophan creates niacin, an instrumental vitamin in creating serotonin.
The next time that you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed, check your refrigerator or pantry for a quick snack to help release those feel-good neurotransmitters. Consider adding these to your diet occasionally, or if you’re interested in getting more of a specific vitamin, consider supplements (with the approval of your doctor or medical care professional).
Of course, eating some of these foods above is not a substitute for getting professional help, if you need it. There are plenty of online resources that are available that can help with anxiety, depression, or any other mental health issues that you may be facing. Let us know your favorite food to help combat anxiety in the comments below!
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