Stress and anxiety have become an indelible part of our lives today, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. While proper stress and anxiety management should be done with the guidance of a mental health professional, there is a nutrition aspect that can help too. Here is how the addition of a few nutrient-dense foods can help you manage stress.
Stress and anxiety have become an indelible part of our lives today, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic brought more focus on mental health issues and how the world needs to cope with them. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in 2019, one in every eight people—roughly 970 million people—around the world were living with mental health disorders like stress, anxiety and depression. In 2020 and after, the number of people increased exponentially because of the pandemic.
Given how serious this issue is, it is important that if and when we do experience stress and anxiety, we should take it seriously and reach out for help. It is important that we share mental health problems we face with family, friends as well as mental health professionals for proper help and guidance. Another area of focus when handling stress and anxiety is nutrition, and this aspect is something you can cover on your own.
Nutrition plays a significant role in overall well-being, including the management of stress and anxiety. While it's important to remember that proper nutrition alone may not completely alleviate stress and anxiety, it can contribute to a healthier body and mind, just like exercise and sleep can. Consuming a balanced diet that includes complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help stabilize blood sugar levels. Sharp fluctuations in blood sugar can contribute to mood swings and increased anxiety.
Additionally, certain nutrients are involved in the production of neurotransmitters, which regulate mood and emotions. Adequate intake of nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D can support brain health and promote emotional well-being. Emerging research suggests a connection between gut health and mental health. A healthy gut microbiome is important for the production of neurotransmitters and the regulation of mood.
This clearly shows that with the addition and regular intake of certain foods, managing stress and anxiety can become a lot easier. Wondering what these foods are? Here are some of the best foods that you can eat to relieve stress and anxiety.
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Dark chocolate with a high cocoa content may have stress-relieving effects. Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and compounds like flavonols that can increase blood flow to the brain and improve mood. A small study published in the Journal of Proteome Research found that dark chocolate consumption reduced stress hormone levels in participants.
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Research suggests that omega-3s may help reduce anxiety symptoms and promote brain health. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that omega-3 supplementation improved anxiety symptoms in participants.
Berries, such as blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. Antioxidants help protect against oxidative stress, which may contribute to anxiety and depression. A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience suggests that regular consumption of berries may have positive effects on brain health and mood.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are rich in folate, which may help regulate mood. A review published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research highlighted the potential benefits of folate in reducing depressive symptoms.
Yogurt and Probiotic Foods
Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut contain beneficial bacteria that can influence brain health and mood. Emerging research suggests that gut health may be linked to mental health. A study published in Psychiatry Research found that probiotic supplementation reduced anxiety symptoms in participants.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds, including almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds, are excellent sources of nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients may contribute to stress reduction and mood improvement. A review published in Nutrients suggested that magnesium supplementation may have a positive impact on anxiety symptoms.
Green tea contains an amino acid called L-theanine, which has been found to promote relaxation and reduce anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Functional Foods investigated the effects of green tea consumption on stress responses. Participants who consumed green tea containing L-theanine experienced reduced stress levels compared to the control group. The study suggested that L-theanine in green tea may have a calming effect on the brain and help mitigate stress responses.
Remember, while these foods may be part of a healthy diet and potentially offer benefits, managing stress and anxiety involves a holistic approach that includes various factors such as regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and seeking professional help if needed. It's essential to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice and to ensure these foods align with your individual health needs.