October 23, 2012

Foods that can help to Lower our Anxiety Levels.

Photo: Pauline Mak/Flickr

When you think about stress or tension, where does your mind go?

A lot of us think about stress being manifested in our physical bodies because we’ve just exercised. Maybe we’ve gone for a long run or it’s the first time we’ve exercised in awhile—or, it could be due to a lack of activity (sitting at a desk all day). Our muscles feel tight; there may be tension in our shoulders, necks or hips.

But very often it is our emotions that are wreaking havoc on our bodies—much more than any amount of exercise we can do—and they are stressing our internal organs.

Do you ever notice how wrecked you feel after a fight you’ve had with your partner, after the death of a loved one or after you’ve encountered some terrible news? Or maybe it’s anxiety over a situation at work or with your children.

Now, the stress is manifesting itself in your digestive system. Symptoms can include bloating, gas, nausea or constipation—your gut is literally telling you something is wrong.

When we feel stressed, we often reach for foods that actually higher our anxiety levels. Coffee or other caffeinated beverages can seem appealing. Sugary, processed foods or simple carbohydrates become our “comfort” foods. Unfortunately, these foods and beverages can make everything worse; our liver goes into over-drive, we have trouble sleeping and our symptoms increase.

So, what’s the solution? Can we manage the disaster taking over our bodies? Yes! We have a choice in dealing with stress head on.

The first step is to listen: What is your body saying to you? It’s smarter than you think. The second step is to not ignore your symptoms anymore: take initiative and move the stress out. The third step is to reach for foods that actually lower anxiety levels.

Here are a few foods that have actually been proven to lower stress levels:

1) Blueberries: The high potency of antioxidants in these berries counteracts the production of cortisol, the number one chemical that is released during a stressful time.

2) Peaches: This fruit is a fantastic super food. Peaches include phytonutrients that give you healthier skin and help fight cancer. They also have a natural sedative that can help reduce stress and anxiety. Plus, since they are sweet, they can work wonders when you need that sugary treat.

3) Acacia berries: This superfood that should not be ignored. The acacia berry has phytonutrients that have been shown to enhance your mood. They have additional health benefits, such as leveling your blood sugar which therefore reduces sugar cravings.

4) Cacao: Raw cacao is the ingredient found in chocolate. It is high in flavonoids. Flavonoids are potent with relaxation properties. It also contains phenethylamine, a chemical that enhances mood. You can add raw cacao to your smoothies, your macaroons or you can get the nutrients by eating a dark chocolate bar. The darker the chocolate, the more of these substances you are getting. Generally, opt for bars with 70% cacao or higher.

5) Maca root: Maca root is a powder made from a Peruvian root and can be found in certain supplements and drink mixes. Maca root, in its unprocessed form, contains a phytonutrient that helps ward off anxiety and depression. Some studies have found that maca root is just as useful at fighting depression as prescription antidepressants, since it contains so many mood enhancing nutrients. Another plus is that maca root is natural and does not have as many of the risks and side effects prescription anxiety medication. Maca root powder can be made into a tea or sprinkled over other foods to give you the maximum health benefits. You actually need very little—I add half a teaspoon to my smoothies.

6) Spinach: This lean, green leaf is high in magnesium, improves your body’s overall response to stress and stops your blood pressure from spiking.

7) Sunflower seeds: Sunflower seeds contain a high source of folate, which help your body produce the feel-good brain chemical, dopamine. Normal levels of dopamine help control of your emotional responses.

8) Walnuts: It has been shown that eating at least one ounce of walnuts a day can prevent your blood pressure from rising and keep your anxiety levels in check. If you tend to have higher levels of adrenaline and anxiety, make sure you get some of these delicious nuts into your diet so you’re not make your heart work more than it needs to. Walnuts can be a great addition to any salad or salad dressing.

These super foods are now everywhere, if you know where to look. And since we are becoming more and more aware of our health and how what we eat affects our mood, these foods are becoming easier to find.

If you have been feeling tension or stress, consider adding some of these super foods to your diet; they will have a calming effect on your body and help relieve feelings of anxiety.

Try using these super foods as alternatives for the more processed and less nutritious foods in your diet—particularly those high in fat, calories, and processed sugars.

You won’t believe the results!


Editor: Bryonie Wise

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