Nutrition is fuel for your body. Choose the right fuel and your body, including your mind, can work better.
Research into the role of nutrition in the fight against stress is mixed, but studies have consistently shown that people with anxiety may have lower quality diets low in fruits and vegetables and in fats and sugars. Emerging research also suggests that certain foods can help regulate neurotransmitters, thereby improving brain health and possibly reducing stress.
Dietary changes are not magical, and few nutritional improvements are unlikely to correct severe anxiety or prolonged trauma. They can, however, complement the effects of treatment, medication, lifestyle changes and other strategies. Changes in diet can also help alleviate some of the natural effects of stress, such as muscle tension and racing heart.
Experimenting with a different diet can help people with anxiety to feel an increased sense of control and self-efficacy. Many people with anxiety feel out of control. Preventive measures to combat anxiety can help with this feeling. Be open to experimentation and know that it may take time for you to realize the benefits of combating food stress.
The science behind stress-reducing foods
Nutrition affects stress both directly and indirectly. Low blood glucose can be a scandalous stress, so eating crashes and prolonged periods without eating can make stress worse. Sugar foods, caffeine and alcohol can also cause or aggravate stress. People struggling with stress may want to limit these components or eliminate them altogether.
Experimenting with a different diet can help people with anxiety to feel an increased sense of control and self-efficacy.
Some foods can also reduce stress. There is not a single mechanism through which food reduces stress. Every stress-free food has its own unique benefits. Some common features include:
- Promoting general health. Some evidence suggests that eating a more balanced, nutritious diet may help with stress. For example, some people report stress reductions when eating a whole diet or correcting eating deficits.
- Neurotransmitter regulation. Certain chemicals, especially eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) can help regulate neurotransmitters, which are brain chemicals that help convey messages in a contract. Many antidepressants and antidepressants also work in neurotransmitters.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is common, especially among the elderly and those who do not spend much time in natural sunlight. Vitamin D supports healthy brain function and can regulate neurotransmitters. Doctors believe it can be particularly critical for regulating dopamine, a brain chemical that plays an important role in motivation and pleasure.
- Fight against inflammation. Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury. Chronic inflammation, however, can cause a wide range of diseases. Some studies link it to stress. Foods that fight inflammation can help with anxiety as well as other chronic health problems.
8 Best Foods for Stress
The best stress foods are nutrient-rich, tasty and adaptable to a wide range of foods. This ensures that even if they do not help immediately with stress, they offer other health benefits. Try incorporating some of the following foods that reduce anxiety in your diet:
Salmon is rich in vitamin D, DHA and EPA. It is also a healthy source of protein and an excellent substitute for other meats. A 2014 study jeopardized the impact of salmon on men seeking mental health treatment for nurses. Men who ate salmon three times a week for 5 months had fewer symptoms of anxiety. Salmon has been particularly effective in relieving natural stressors such as fast pulse.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are nutrient-rich foods rich in DHA. DHA has been linked to improving brain health, including reducing stress and better regulated neurotransmitters. In addition, most nuts and seeds have high selenium.
Chamomile tea is one of the oldest and most popular folk remedies in the world for insomnia. This may be partly due to its effects on stress. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 2009 found that chamomile could moderately improve symptoms of generalized anxiety.
Choline is an essential nutrient that plays a role in many functions, including supporting brain health, memory and concentration. It is also a precursor of acetylcholine. Preliminary research shows that choline deficiency can increase the risk of anxiety. Many vegetarians lack choline, as the primary sources of this important nutrient are all meats. Eggs offer a viable alternative. Consider incorporating one or two hard boiled eggs into your diet for a protein source of this important nutrient.
Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants that can fight inflammation. It is also a healthy substitute for milk chocolate and other snack snacks. A 2012 study found that regular consumption of dark chocolate was associated with a reduction in biochemical stressors such as cortisol production. For some people, black chocolate can also be a powerful food that relieves stress after a difficult day.
Berries and citrus fruits
Inflammation can be a culprit in stress. Inflammation can also cause other health problems, such as chronic pain and autoimmune disorders. These situations can aggravate the stress. Fruits that contain antioxidants can help reduce chronic inflammation. Berries, especially blueberries, are high in anti-inflammatory ingredients. Citrus fruits are a rich source of antioxidant vitamin C.
Turmeric has long been used in herbal medicine. Emerging research suggests that it may play a role in the overall health of the brain, perhaps by combating inflammation. A 2015 study found a significant decrease in anxiety levels among people who consumed turmeric.
Most dairy products are enriched with vitamin D. For people who do not have enough vitamin D in their diet or spend some time outdoors, vitamin D supplementation can ease stress. The dairy is also a rich source of protein. Especially for people who do not eat meat, eating dairy products can ensure adequate protein intake. Protein helps the body produce key neurotransmitters, possibly improving mood and reducing stress.
Every person is different. The ideal diet for one person can prove disastrous for another. Foods that relieve stress in some people may make it worse than others. For example, a 2015 case study describes how fish oil supplements made anxiety and insomnia worse after treating depression.
It is important to consult a doctor or mental health provider who is up to date on nutrition and up to date on recent nutrition research.
Even with expert advice, some people find that their stress makes it difficult to adopt a healthy lifestyle or change their diet. The right therapist can help people overcome anxiety and make healthy eating and lifestyle changes. Therapy also supports people in understanding their stress, managing the long-term effects of trauma, and improving their quality of life. To find your therapist, click here.
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