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Foods for Anxiety and Stress

Foods for Anxiety and Stress

Just as some foods can help to reduce anxiety and stress, so can others cause/contribute to it. Let us discuss one after another.

Foods that Help with Anxiety and Stress: Foods that Reduce and Foods that Cause Anxiety and Stress: Foods to Avoid with Anxiety: Vitamins for Anxiety

Foods that Help with Anxiety and Stress

When we discuss foods that reduce anxiety and stress, it’s important to note that there are different components that go into that. For example, did you know that hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can cause panic attacks? This is because when your blood sugar is too low, it causes a stress response in your brain that increases adrenaline and cortisol. Therefore, we want foods that will not have a rapid impact on blood sugar.

We also want foods that are known to stabilize mood and increase energy. Finally, foods rich in nutrients and antioxidants are important in reducing stress.

Stay Hydrated

One of the most important “foods” when discussing reducing stress with nutrition is actually a drink – water. Even slight dehydration can cause feelings of depression and anxiety. Therefore it’s very important to ensure that you are drinking enough water, and to avoid diuretics (like caffeine) when looking to improve stress with nutrition.

Tryptophan

Some nutrients that help to alleviate stress are things like the amino acid, tryptophan, which turns into the stress-reducing hormone, serotonin. Tryptophan is most famously found in turkey, but it can also be found in such foods as seeds and nuts, cheese, eggs, meats (game, poultry, beef, fish, shellfish), seaweed, soy, beans, oats, and dairy. There is some question as to whether tryptophan is able to cross the blood-brain barrier in order to cause these stress-reducing effects, though, so don’t expect dramatic results.

B-Complex Vitamins

The B-complex vitamins are also particularly good for stress relief. They help the nervous system and brain to function properly. These vitamins include:
  • Thiamin (Vitamin B1) – this can be found in such foods as nuts and seeds, asparagus, green peas, bread, edamame, beans, squash, and pork.
  • Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) – can be found in eggs, cheese, pork, spinach, seafood, mushrooms, almonds, and sesame seeds.
  • Niacin (Vitamin B3) – can be found in avocado, peanuts, sunflower seeds, fresh green peas, portobello mushrooms, beef, liver, poultry, and fish.
  • Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) – found in sweet potatoes, mushrooms, egg yolks, liver, yeast, broccoli, yogurt, etc.
  • Vitamin B6 – found in pistachios, bananas, dried fruits, avocados, spinach, bananas, beef, poultry, fish, sunflower seeds.
  • Biotin (Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H) – can be found in yogurt, cheese, chicken, meat, and oily fish (such as salmon and tuna)
  • Folic acid (Vitamin B9) – can be found in broccoli, dark leafy greens such as spinach, beets, carrots, corn, seeds and nuts, celery, papaya, strawberries, and oranges.
  • Vitamin B12 – found in milk products, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, and cheese.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are also important stress relievers. These fatty acids are essential to the optimal function of certain regions of the brain involving motivation and emotional regulation. They can be found in such foods as fatty fish (salmon and tuna), walnuts, flax-seed oil, and chia seeds.

Minerals: Magnesium and Zinc

Magnesium is an important nutrient for combating anxiety. A deficiency of this mineral can lead to anxiety. It can be found in foods such as seaweed and whole grains. In fact, seaweed is a good alternative to whole grains for those who are gluten-sensitive, as it contains both the stress-relieving nutrients of magnesium and tryptophan.

Another important nutrient in maintaining a balanced mood is zinc. This can be found in almonds.

Antioxidants

Super-foods such as blueberries, dark-colored grapes, raspberries, strawberries, peaches, dark leafy greens (like spinach), broccoli, sweet potatoes, nuts, green tea, and whole grains are high in antioxidants, which are important in stress reduction. Peaches may also have a sedative effect.

A Well-Balanced Diet

As you can see, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, and healthy fats will ensure you get all the nutrients you need to help manage and relieve stress and anxiety. You can also take supplements to make sure you get enough of all these nutrients.

Foods that Cause Anxiety and Stress  – Foods to Avoid

When you’re trying to reduce stress and anxiety, some foods to avoid include:

Processed Foods

High in fat, sugar, and salt, these foods can increase your cortisol levels and thereby increase feelings of anxiety.

Stimulants

Coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and energy drinks contain caffeine, which is a stimulant and can make you feel jittery and anxious. Caffeine is also a diuretic, so can contribute to dehydration – which you should avoid if you hope to reduce anxiety. If you must have these, choose decaf.

Candy

High-sugar foods such as candy and chocolates raise your blood sugar quickly, which means that at some point, you will have a crash. And when you crash, your stress levels will increase. It’s better to eat fruit if you’re craving sweets, as fruit will not cause a sharp increase in blood sugar, due to the fiber it contains.

Alcohol

Some people think that a glass of wine or a beer after a stressful day of work helps them to relax. However, alcohol is a depressant that stimulates the release of cortisol (a stress hormone). It is also a diuretic.

Vitamins for Anxiety

Anxiety negatively impacts health and overall well-being in numerous ways from panic attacks, to insomnia, to concentration and focus issues.

But a diet rich in vitamins B and D can help fight those symptoms that can leave you emotionally and physically drained.

Vitamin D -The Sun Vitamin

Soaking up rays isn't just great for your tan, it's also essential for keeping your mood on an even keel.  One study showed that supplementing with vitamin D lowered the stress hormone cortisol.

That's not all vitamin D is good for.  According to one study, vitamin D deficiencies are linked to depression and anxiety in patients with fibromyalgia.

This fat-soluble vitamin is found in eggs and fatty fish like salmon.

Our bodies can make Vitamin D by absorbing rays from the sun. Seasonal Affective Disorder sufferers can benefit from a little sunbathing and vitamin D, especially during the summer months when the sunshine is limited.

How High is Your Vitamin D?

Many adults just don't get enough vitamin D. If sun exposure is limited and you aren't getting enough of this vitamin from your diet, consider supplementing with a natural form called vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). 

Avoid vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) the ineffective, synthetic form of Vitamin D.

If you aren't sure if you're indeed deficient in vitamin D, get tested. There's a simple blood test called 25-hydroxy-vitamin D you can get through your doctor.

Ok, so maybe you're low in this anti-anxiety vitamin. How much should you take?

Dr. John Cannell, the founder of the Vitamin D Council, recommends taking 5,000 IU daily until your vitamin D level is between 50 and 80 ng/mL.

Fight Anxiety With This Vitamin B Cocktail

B vitamins are used to boost energy. But according to research having a deficiency in certain B vitamins has been linked to increased panic, anxiety, and even agoraphobia.

Vitamin B5: Also known as Pantothenic Acid, this vitamin helps your body fight stress by regulating adrenal function, stabilizes mood, boosts energy and more.

A few symptoms of a vitamin B5 deficiency include irritability, fatigue, insomnia, muscle cramps and depression.

Food sources of B5:

-Avocado
-Beef Liver
-Broccoli
-Lentils (also an excellent source of iron)
-Organic eggs
-Portabella Mushrooms
-Sunflower Seeds
-Wild Caught Salmon
-Veal (responsibly raised)

Vitamin B6: Deficiency in vitamin B6 is linked to increased panic attacks.  In a Japanese study, those who experienced anxiety and panic attacks had lower levels of vitamin B6 and iron in their blood.

B6 is used to help the brain make serotonin, one of the body's natural feel-good chemicals.

Look for vitamin B6 in the following forms: pyridoxal, pyridoxamine, pyridoxine hydrochloride, and pyridoxal-5-phosphate. This vitamin is found in a multivitamin, vitamin B complex or liquid drops.  

B6 food sources: Organic chicken, organic turkey, wild caught tuna, wild caught shrimp, organic beef liver, cheese, beans, spinach, carrots, brown rice and sunflower seeds.

Vitamin B8 (Inositol): Studies show inositol is effective for relieving symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). According to one study, this B vitamin helps with obsessive thought patterns.

Up to 18 grams, a day was proven to be as effective as anti-anxiety meds and with fewer side effects to boot.

You can find inositol sold by itself or as part of a multi-vitamin supplement. 

Inositol food sources: mushrooms, whole wheat bread, rice bran, peanuts, peanut butter, walnuts, hazelnuts, oatmeal, egg whites, organic/grass fed beef liver, and almonds.

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