So often we are told about all the foods we should avoid – especially if we suffer from anxiety. Things like coffee, refined sugars, alcohol and processed foods all have a bad reputation for triggering anxiety or making it worse. That’s on top of having other negative effects on our overall health and wellbeing. But what about the foods that can help reduce anxiety? What can we enjoy, safe in the knowledge that whatever we’re eating will actually have a positive effect on our mental health?
Medical News Today says…
People can make a variety of lifestyle changes to help manage their anxiety.” And that generally, “eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein can be helpful.
Here at TCW magazine, we are big advocates of a positive mindset and intuitive eating, so it seems only natural to write about all the lovely foods you can enjoy, rather than focusing on those to avoid or deny yourself. After all, any ‘denial’ approach to our diet or food intake is generally well-known to be ineffective. What’s more, anxiety symptoms can be worsened by not eating, so a regulated intake is all the more important.
Calming/Anxiety friendly foods
If you’ve ever wondered which foods you can eat to help reduce your anxiety or are looking for ways to beat anxiety without medication, read on for our top 10 calming foods to help ease your anxiety symptoms more naturally…
As long as it’s the kind containing live cultures, studies show that eating probiotic yoghurt daily may help us cope better with stress and support the areas of the brain responsible for controlling our emotions. Eating fermented foods that contain good bacteria can help promote gut health which has been shown to help reduce anxiety and stress, and increase happiness. Of course, if you are lactose intolerant or find dairy disagrees with you, it is best avoided. But there are other, non-dairy fermented foods that you could try instead, such as sauerkraut, kombucha, or tempeh.
Berries and citrus
The antioxidants and Vitamin C found in certain fruits are not only great immunity boosters but can also help support our mental wellbeing. Eating fruits rich in Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. This makes berries and citrus fruit some of the best fruits to help calm us and put us in a better frame of mind.
Dark Green Vegetables
Dark, leafy green veg, like kale, cavolo nero, and broccoli, are packed full of antioxidant boosters. These help to support optimal brain functioning and are also thought to help with mood. They may also help reduce the inflammation in the brain that has been linked with depression.
There’s more than one reason why many of us need a nap after a big Christmas dinner! Turkey is a great source of L-tryptophan, an amino acid that gets converted into the ‘happy hormone’ serotonin in the body. With its ability to help us relax and improve wellbeing, the hormone also helps to promote sleep. Zzzzz…..
Along with good monounsaturated fats, avocados are rich in potassium, both of which help to lower blood pressure. They also contain Vitamin B12 which is important for keeping our brains and nerve cells healthy.
Those tiny little almonds are jam-packed with vitamins B2 and E, which have been shown to help prevent anxiety by regulating mood, as well as helping to support the immune system during times of stress. They are also full of selenium which has been linked to stress reduction.
Turmeric contains something called curcumin, which has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have been linked with a reduction in anxiety levels. Try adding it into your cooking or drink as a tea.
Salmon is packed full of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which help regulate stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol when you’re feeling tense. One study into the benefits of omega-3 supplementation saw a 20% reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Does chocolate really relieve stress? Well, we all know chocolate can be a great mood booster. But the rich taste and sense of indulgence are not the only reasons it can help us feel better. The flavonoids in dark chocolate are antioxidants known for improving blood flow to the brain which, in turn, helps it to adjust better to stressful situations. This, combined with its ability to increase serotonin levels, makes dark chocolate is one of our absolute favourite anti-anxiety foods (in moderation, of course).
Incredibly soothing and packed full of antioxidants, tea can be a great comfort and is one of the best drinks to help alleviate anxiety and a whole host of other mental health complaints. Especially good for easing anxiety symptoms are Chamomile Tea, due to its natural sedative properties, and Green Tea which contains mood-regulating theanine. In fact, we recently discussed the many benefits of our favourite herbal teas right here on the blog.
Above all, listen to your stomach, eat intuitively, and enjoy every piece of food that passes your lips. Food has naturally become more central to our daily lives as many of us are currently spending more time at home, and our focus now shifts to the winter festivities. Now we can enjoy it all the more, knowing we are eating our way towards a better frame of mind… It seems that (certain) food can make you happy after all!