Foods to help fight anxiety
There are lots of obvious foods and drinks that we know to exacerbate anxiety: caffeine, too much sugar, alcohol … but what if we could eat our way to being calm instead of fueling the symptoms?
Refined sugar, while giving us that initial high, can cause massive crashes in energy, lethargy and mood swings. Caffeine has a similar effect on the body after that initial burst of fire.
Food sensitivities like a lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivity or aversion to eggs, also have been shown to increase symptoms of anxiety and other mental health issues.
There are a number of foods that you can increase your intake of to help combat feelings of unease, stress and depression.
Spinach: Packed full of magnesium, a calming mineral, spinach is an easy go-to. Throw it in your smoothie, add handfuls to eggs, or soup, or just use it in place of lettuce for your summer salad base.
Fish: Many types of fish contain lysine, an essential amino acid found only in food. Studies have shown that lysine may affect neurotransmitters (those pesky things that flood our bloodstream during stress) and help reduce cortisol levels. Omega 3’s, also found in fish, are natural mood enhancers that can play a role in easing anxiety.
Fermented foods: The gut — brain connection is getting more and more study time every day:
“Evidence exists showing that irritation in the gastrointestinal system may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that can trigger mood changes,” according to Dr Jeremy Wolf.
Adding in live yoghurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, pickles and kraut to your diet is believed to be beneficial as they add important vitamins into our microbiome.
Herbs: Many herbs offer deep nervine support and can be used to address the symptoms of anxiety and stress. The best thing about them is that unlike over the counter anxiety medication, they come without side effects or risk of addiction. Common ones include lavender, skullcap, passionflower, oat seed, chamomile and lemonbalm. The most popular might be Kava Kava, which has a tradition of ritual use in Polynesia. It’s used for the sedative and medicinal properties of the herb as well as its pain relieving capacity. Herbs can be taken in tea, as a tincture, or tonic. Talk to an herbalist or naturopath about which ones might be right for you and any risks associated with a particular health condition.
Cashews: Cashews are the king of nuts in the health food world right now. They provide a wonderful alternative to anything cheesy when soaked and blended into a thick cream: Ricotta, cream cheese, pasta sauce and cheesecake. They’re stacked full of zinc, too, a trace mineral that helps convert vitamin B6 to its active form. This in turn helps synthesize serotonin and therefore balance our mood.
Lemon: Lemons are rich in vitamin C, something that diminishes quickly when our bodies are under high levels of stress. If we are depleted in vitamin C, the stress response can be extended and lead to higher levels of cortisol in the body. So keep yourself topped up with warm lemon water, squeeze some over your salad, add it into your every day in some small way.
Pumpkin seeds: Another magnesium filled food with 40 percent of your daily value contained in just 1 ounce! Magnesium is beneficial in regulating our response to stressors but most adults are considerably deficient in it. It’s harder to control the release of stress hormones without sufficient magnesium supplies. Sprinkle seeds on oatmeal, add to salads, stir into granola or top off a smoothie with them.
Dark chocolate: Surely everyone’s preferred way to reduce stress! Full of antioxidants and magnesium to boot, dark chocolate also contains a fatty acid neurotransmitter called anandamide that has been proven to reverse stress induced anxiety in mice. Use it as an instant mood booster during the tougher times of your day.
Lastly, adaptogens. Not technically a “food” but easy to consume in powder form, adding them to hot drinks, morning coffee or blender. Adaptogens are a unique class of plants with healing benefits that help balance, protect and restore the body to health. It’s reported that they can help recharge your adrenal glands, balance your cortisol levels and therefore improve your response to stress. Ginseng, Holy Basil, and Ashwaganda are just three of the most prolific having their moment in the wellness world right now.
Don’t forget, work with a trusted health care practitioner, Chinese medicine doctor, herbalist or nutritionist, who can help you with individualized health and diet plans and can teach you about genetic vulnerabilities that might lead to anxiety and mental health struggles.
At Elevate, we carry several different lines of adaptogenic supplements, as well as our best selling topical magnesium butter, a powdered magnesium supplement and an in-house apothecary for all your herbal needs. Stop by our communiTEA bar to sample some of our offerings!
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