If you’ve ever been worried or nervous, you might be able to testify that an anxious mind brings about an anxious stomach. Those butterflies in the stomach are no accident! But there are foods that can reduce that anxiety, and the more chronic kind, too.
It’s an umbrella term used to describe various disorders — such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and phobias — and is generally characterized by constant feelings of tension, worry, and nervousness that can interfere with daily life.
Beets are high in folate, a vitamin that can play a role in relieving stress. According to Sass, one cup of beets supplies over 30% of the folate needed daily.
“Because of its link with the nervous system, too little folate has been known to trigger mental fatigue, forgetfulness, confusion, and insomnia,” said Sass. “In addition, several common medications can deplete the body’s supply of folate, including cholesterol-lowering drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs, diabetes medications, and birth control pills.”
When we’re anxious and stressed, our bodies crave vitamin C to help repair and protect our cells, and blueberries are packed full of it. Small but mighty, blueberries are bursting with antioxidants and vitamin C that have been shown to provide anxiety relief. One study¹ examined the effects of oral vitamin C supplements on anxiety in a group of students and found that antioxidants may be useful for both the prevention and reduction of anxiety.
If you haven’t had an apple a day in awhile, it might be a good time to start. The high levels of antioxidants may help lessen the symptoms of anxiety (anxiety is thought to be correlated with a lowered total antioxidant state).
Turmeric is a common spice that may help prevent anxiety disorders thanks to its curcumin content. Curcumin is a compound that works as an anti-inflammatory for the body; it’s also been found to treat anxiety.
Eating turmeric boosts levels of DHA, the fatty acid crucial for brain development and serotonin and dopamine production in the brain. Studies have found that curcumin may also play a role in alleviating depression.
You can easily add turmeric powder to curries, soups or smoothies.
The highest concentrations of vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits, which also aid in stress management. “Vitamin C has been demonstrated to lessen emotional and physical stress, likely by lowering cortisol levels,” says Shelatkar. The hormone cortisol, also known as the ‘Fight or Flight’ hormone, is released when under stress and has been connected to a number of medical disorders.
Snack on almonds
Pack some almonds for when those after-lunch, but-not-quite-dinner, snackies hit. Like avocado, almonds are rich in vitamin B. Heart-healthy almonds support brain function by balancing neurotransmitters and nixing stress.
These nuts also contain ample amounts of magnesium, another anxiety contender. Just one ounce of almonds contains almost 20 percent of your daily recommended value of magnesium!
Eat Greek Yogurt and High-Protein Foods To Boost Alertness
Protein helps stimulate the production of the brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine, which, like serotonin, are neurotransmitters and carry impulses between nerve cells. Higher levels of norepinephrine and dopamine have been shown to improve alertness, mental energy, and reaction time, Villacorta says. Good sources of protein include Greek yogurt, fish, meats, cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, soy, and lentils. “The ideal for mood boosting,” Villacorta says, “is to combine complex carbohydrates and protein, and to spread your meals throughout the day.”
A healthy microbiome is dependent on a healthy presence of good bacteria in the gut and an effective way to replenish these populations of good bacteria is through eating fermented foods. Naturally rich in live cultures, foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, miso, and plain yogurts are excellent for mental fitness. Consuming fermented foods in conjunction with the above-mentioned fiber rich veggies is key for maintaining a healthy microbiome and resisting chronic inflammation.
Leafy greens (spinach, kale, Swiss chard, collard green) are rich in magnesium. In mice, anxiety-related behaviors were linked to diets that were low in magnesium, a mineral that’s important for tons of bodily functions. And while it’s readily available in supplement form, it’s important to remember that the body absorbs nutrients best from whole foods.
Throughout history, people have known of the calming properties of chamomile tea As it turns out, research has shown chamomile to be effective in aiding with relaxation, and helping with anxiety, depression, and insomnia. In a small 2016 study, researchers determined that long-term chamomile use “significantly” reduced moderate-to-severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder.
Chamomile is also available as supplements, liquid extracts, tinctures, and topical creams.