9 simple foods to ease anxiety
by sarah curran
by sarah curran
For most of my life I have been dealing with anxiety. As an adult, my anxiety can become like an out-of-control train, where I found myself often looking for answers through better nutrition to feel better in myself. Despite taking prescribed medications and doing regular activities like exercise, I have found that certain food choices do reduce my anxiety symptoms and stress levels.
These nine foods below help to play an important role in supporting our stressed-out bodies to heal, by providing significantly more balanced and healthier sources of energy.
These fruits are not only creamy and delicious, they also help to de-stress your body significantly! Avocados are rich in glutathione, a substance that specifically blocks gut absorption of certain fats that cause damage in the body such as inflammation, as well as containing folate which has a positive action on our cardiovascular, neural and psycho-emotional health. Avocados are also rich in stress-relieving B vitamins, with a single serving (about one-quarter of an avocado) has delivering plenty of calm mood nutrients!
Handy tip: Instead of butter or margarine, use creamy avocado as a healthy spread on your rice cakes or in your gluten free wraps.
A deficiency in potassium can cause anxiety. This is something I was not aware of until I saw a Naturopath. I found that eating bananas was very helpful when struggling with constant feelings of nervousness, as they were filling and full of natural flavour! Something also great was that they are high in potassium!
Handy tip: Add slices of banana with a drizzle of almond butter to quinoa porridge, for an added sweetness and a potassium boost.
Zesty and fresh in taste! One lemon has more than our daily intake of vitamin C and contains citrus flavonoids that act as an anti-inflammatory. To get the most use from the lemon's scent, I found that by peeling the skin and placing the rind in a sauce pan of simmering water a great tool! By covering the sauce pan and leaving the rind to simmer, the beautiful lemon aroma was released, reducing feelings of anxiety considerably.
Handy tip: Add a slice of lemon to peppermint or green tea for added antioxidants. Not only is this calming to drink, it will taste amazing hot or cold!
These delicious food gems are packed with antioxidants, vitamin E, as well as important nutrients, including folate, and are also rich in beta carotene. Sweet potatoes contain potassium also which helps to maintain electrolyte balance in the body, which is good news for maintaining healthy heart function and reducing any feelings of anxiety. The good source of dietary fibre also helps to support our gastrointestinal system – something which I have found crucial for helping heal conditions such as IBS and leaky gut.
Handy tip: Try switching your favourite baked potato or side of mashed potato to sweet potatoes. They make great chips as well!
Whether or not leafy greens are your idea of comfort food, believe me, they will help you feel MUCH better! Spinach is packed with the feel good mineral magnesium that helps regulate our cortisol levels, consequently reducing our feelings of stress.
Handy tip: Try switching iceberg lettuce in your salads with spinach leaves, or drop a handful of leaves into your next smoothie and you won't even realise!
This easy to digest protein is a great addition to any lunch or dinner plate as it is rich in magnesium, selenium, b12, vitamin D and much more. However, the gold is in salmon’s high omega 3 fatty acid (and EPA) content which is said to lower inflammation in the body and in the brain. This has the effect of helping to relieve anxiety, depression and stress in people of all ages.
Handy Tip: Squeeze some lemon over your salmon and pair it with some sweet potato chips and a spinach /avocado salad for a full anti-anxiety meal!
There is something calming about a nice cup of tea. Ever since I was a student at University, I found that I often enjoyed drinking tea during study. The ritual of tea drinking was not only warming and comforting, it was very relaxing. I also found that the activity of tea drinking helped slowed down everything, which was helpful with reducing some of the anxiety symptoms I may have been having (including racing thoughts, increased heart rate, and rapid breathing). Tea also keeps an anxious body hydrated which is something that I find you lack when you're anxious. Something that you do easily forget to do is drink water, when anxious!
Certain herbal teas are also very effective in helping to induce a natural state of calmness. Some of the best ones include:
Chamomile - as a herbal remedy, chamomile tea has been used for centuries to calm nerves. In a 2009 study by the University of Pennsylvania, the authors compared scores from standardized tests designed to measure generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Over a period of eight weeks, one group received a placebo while the other took pharmaceutical grade chamomile capsules. Subjects were then tested to if their symptoms of anxiety had changed during this time. This was a significant result for anxiety sufferers, with the outcome being that those who took chamomile enjoyed a reduction in their anxiety symptoms. Chamomile tea is best had before bed-time, for a better sleep. This tea tastes very soothing!
Peppermint - this tea is an excellent source of menthol and can help to calm a nervous stomach. With anxiety, relief from nausea, vomiting, or an upset gut does help make you to feel better. For natural stress relief, try some fragrant and soothing peppermint tea. Not only will your digestive system love you, your senses will too!
Lemon Balm - this is a herbal nervine, which means it is a herb that works on helping the nervous system manage feelings of stress and exhaustion. Wonderful news for stress and anxiety! Lemon balm tea tastes refreshing and soothing, like a warm hug for your senses. This tea makes a great nerve remedy.
This includes strawberries, cherries, goji berries, raspberries, blueberries and acai berries. Berries are rich in vitamins and phytonutrients (plant nutrients), with a variety of antioxidants for helping to relieve feelings of stress. Many experts also believe that peaches fall into this category as well, because they have nutrients that appear to have calming effects, like berries do.
Handy tip: Include some berries at breakfast time for a calming start to your day. On top of coconut yoghurt or porridge, in smoothies or simply grab a handful on the run!
I've saved the best for last! Forget milk chocolate with all the added fat and sugar, go DARK chocolate! This yummy food helps control blood sugar levels and lowers cortisol in our bodies, which helps reduce levels of stress. It is known that lower cortisol levels help improve our mood and overall wellbeing.
Handy tip: To really relax, have a few squares of dark chocolate with your next herbal tea. Bliss!
3 helpful tips to help ease anxiety
FOOD: For foods, anything with magnesium (including pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds), vitamin B12 and other B vitamins (including fish like salmon), zinc (including almonds and cashew nuts), and antioxidants (including berries, beans, and green vegetables) can be beneficial for helping you deal with anxiety and stress.
DRINK: Keep hydrated with water! Drinking water is a part of living. If our bodies are dehydrated, we will feel under more stress.
MOVE: Keep active! Food is not the only answer. Exercise helps us feel well physically, as well as mentally. Relaxing activities I would recommend include: yoga, swimming, gardening, walking, and bike riding.
Regardless of your thoughts on these foods and teas mentioned as an anxiety treatment, no food or tea should ever be taken alone. It is still very important that you see a GP, especially if you feel that your symptoms of anxiety are not lessening and are affecting your daily life. I have found that the support of a GP, counsellor, family and friends are crucial with managing symptoms and working towards recovery.