Anxiety is a health condition that many people struggle with, often to the point of becoming disabled over time. They affect 40 million adults in the United States alone, Managing Anxiety: Foods You Can Eat and Avoid according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). The World Health Organization (WHO) has also estimated that anxiety disorders cost an estimated $42 billion a year in lost earnings and productivity.
Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling that can make you feel you’re losing control, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is a normal response to changing environments that helps us recognize and adapt to new situations, but sometimes, when our safe environment changes drastically, our anxiety levels might spike.
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Have you been feeling anxious?
If so, you’re not alone. With the recent outbreak of monkeypox and the still developing coronavirus, many people are feeling stressed out and worried about their health and the health of their loved ones.
The good news is that there are ways to deal with anxiety—and they can help you get through this time in your life.
One way to do this is by getting educated about what causes anxiety in the first place and how it works in your body to better understand how it affects your behavior.
You’ll also want to pay attention to what makes your body feel anxious—for example, certain foods or activities may cause more anxiety than others for certain people—and try not to eat those foods or engage in those activities if they make you feel bad about yourself or trigger negative thoughts or feelings about yourself or other people.
The foods you eat can have a powerful effect on your mood and energy level. If you’re feeling stressed out or anxious, certain foods can help calm you down and relieve stress.
These are foods known to reduce anxiety:
Berries are a great source of vitamin C and other nutrients that have been shown to reduce anxiety. Vitamin C helps the body produce the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which play an important role in regulating moods. Berries also contain melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep patterns. A study published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms found that eating a handful of blackberries before bedtime helped women fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer, and wake up less often during the night.
Besides their health benefits, berries are also a delicious and easy way to include more fruit in your diet. You can make a smoothie with frozen berries or fresh berries—both taste great!
Salmon is a great food for those with anxiety. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation in the body and brain while also helping the body to produce mood-boosting chemicals called neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters help to keep you feeling happy and relaxed.
Walnuts contain a compound called gamma-tocopherol that has been found to reduce anxiety levels in some people who suffer from anxiety disorders. They also contain antioxidants like vitamin E, which may help protect against damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells throughout the body and contribute to chronic illnesses such as heart disease or cancer.
A study from Johns Hopkins University found that people who were given a little over 1 cup of broccoli every day for three weeks had significantly lower levels of stress hormones in their urine than those who ate no broccoli at all. This is because broccoli contains vitamins A and C and other antioxidants that can boost the immune system and promote good nutrition. In addition, broccoli contains indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which helps reduce stress hormones while increasing serotonin production.
Chamomile tea is known for its relaxing effects on the body. It contains compounds called flavonoids, which may have anti-anxiety properties. Chamomile also reduces stress levels in mice and rats by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. This can help improve your mood and reduce anxiety by making you feel calmer and less stressed out.
Almonds are rich in magnesium, which helps prevent muscle spasms and pain. They also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps produce serotonin, a chemical in the brain that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness.
Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), which have been shown to reduce anxiety by improving brain function. They’re also high in vitamins K, E, and B6—all of which help calm the body down naturally without any side effects.
Many people eat for comfort. But if you have anxiety, it may be more important than ever to refrain from eating certain foods.
The following are some of the most common foods that cause anxiety and should be avoided:
Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and chocolate. It’s a stimulant that works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a brain chemical that makes you feel drowsy. Caffeine can cause anxiety-like symptoms such as heart palpitations, difficulty sleeping, and nervousness when consumed in large amounts (more than 500 milligrams). Avoiding caffeine altogether is best, but if you must, try to limit yourself to one cup or less per day.
Foods made with processed ingredients are loaded with additives and chemicals that can cause digestive issues like heartburn and bloating—two issues that often occur alongside anxiety disorders. The next time you’re in the grocery store or supermarket, stick to whole foods as much as possible.
Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the central nervous system. While drinking alcohol may temporarily reduce your anxiety, it can actually cause more problems as your body metabolizes the substance. Alcohol is also highly addictive and can lead to serious health problems if abused over time.
While not technically considered food additives, artificial sweeteners are often added to many processed foods to improve their flavor or make them healthier than they are. The thing is, using artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin can trigger an anxiety response in the body because these chemicals are foreign to your system. They also encourage you to eat more than you need, leading to weight gain and other health problems.
Stevia is a natural alternative that has zero calories, no negative side effects, and actually has many health benefits if consumed in moderation, such as improved blood pressure.
Adjusting your diet to include foods that reduce anxiety can help you feel calmer and steadier in stressful situations. And while you may not be able to eliminate every stressful situation in your life, you can work to keep your anxiety at bay with these natural changes.
However, let’s not conclude that food alone can take the place of a trained therapist, but considering how important nutrition is to mental health and how much most of us could improve our diets, it doesn’t hurt to know what foods are considered best for your emotional health.