Anxiety is a normal response to stress that we experience when, say, we have an interview, a presentation, the first day at school or some competition we are participating in. In today's world, these stressful scenarios are more constant and ever-present, some because of life's demands - best marks, best college, the best job and some because we set unrealistic goals like owning something way beyond our financial or personal capability, peer pressure for something we aren't comfortable doing or simply office politics. When we stress and experience anxiety, it starts affecting our health. It can lead to some serious problems. Anxiety and stress have a negative effect on the physiology of our body and are associated with a number of medical health issues. Stress hormones like cortisol are detrimental to our health and certain hormonal imbalances also cause stress. It is proven that when we are stressed, we land up eating the wrong food for comfort. So, why not make the best use of this and choose the right foods that can help calm your nerves?
Also Read: 6 Types of Stress You Should Know About
Here Are 9 Food Types That May Help Manage Anxiety Naturally:
1. Consume Complex Carbs
Complex carbs from whole grains help by ensuring a prolonged energy release into the bloodstream, protecting you from feeling down in the dumps. Carbs are also known to boost a chemical called serotonin in the brain, which is also known as the happy hormone. Make sure each major meal is well-spaced and contains oats, whole wheat, quinoa, barley or other whole grains to keep you energised and happy.
2. Include Citrus Fruits In Daily Diet
Citrus fruits are the richest sources of vitamin C, which helps control stress as well. Vitamin C has been found to reduce physical and mental stress probably by preventing increased cortisol levels. Cortisol is the "Flight or Fight" hormone released when stressed and a prolonged increase of this hormone has been linked to a number of health conditions.
3. Magnesium-Rich Foods
Magnesium is a mineral linked to reducing brain functions that exacerbate anxiety. Green leafy vegetables are the easiest way to get magnesium into our meals. From Spinach to Kale, make sure you take adequate greens to stay calm. Avocados, beans and bananas are happy foods too. Magnesium also improves inflammation, a side effect of anxiety.
4. Zinc-Rich Foods
Another mineral, zinc (found in cashews, poultry and eggs) helps our body deal with stress. Zinc is also the pivotal mineral for a healthy nervous system and a healthy vagus nerve that connects the brain to the rest of our body. When our nerves are calm and healthy, so are we.
5. Have More Omega-3
Omega-3 fats are linked to improving oxidative stress and controlling anxiety by improving brain functions. Fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds are rich sources of this healthy fat. Have adequate amounts, extra is not needed.
6. Drink Tea
Tea is one drink that seems to calm people and make them happy. Tea leaves, especially green tea, help soothe nerves probably because it is a rich source of antioxidants. Tea of chamomile is especially used for calmness and is documented to help sleep better. Similarly, infusions of Valarie root and passionflower are also used to alleviate stress and promote calmness
7. Chocolate And Coffee
They are both the ultimate stress busters and energisers. Around 70% of dark chocolates have high cocoa flavonoids that help boost blood flow to the brain and heart, which reduces anxiety. But remember, moderation is key as too much caffeine causes anxiety too. Coffee beans are also rich in antioxidants and coffee as a drink helps energise the body and picks up the mood but excess can cause anxiety and depression, so stick to 2 cups/day.
8. Include Turmeric In Diet
Turmeric (or haldi) contains the bioactive compound, curcumin, which has been used for treating anxiety and depression for ages. It is linked to boosting the happy hormone serotonin and dopamine. In fact, it is said to be as effective as antidepressant medications.
9. Bhrami And Ashwagandha
Ayurveda has relied on two potent herbs for dealing with anxiety and depression. Bhrami is Ayurveda's nerve tonic. It has been used as an anti-anxiety medicine for 3000 years. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means its primary function is to aid the body to adapt to and deal with stress. It reduces cortisol which helps reduce stress further keeping anxiety and fatigue at bay.
All these foods and food groups bring a lot of health to our meals too. Fruits, whole grains and green leafy vegetables nourish our body. Healthy fats, nuts and spices protect our health, and herbs help fight infections and boost our immunity. So, eat healthy, exercise daily, drink a lot of water and enjoy your work to keep anxiety and stress at bay.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.