Have you ever had those days when it seems as if everything that could go wrong happens? You graze the side of the garage with your car, your tax refund gets lost in the mail, and your children’s latest entrepreneurial endeavor is collecting stray animals in the neighborhood and hosting them in their bedroom. Let’s face it. We are stressed! Some experts rank generalized anxiety disorder as the most common mental health disorder in the U.S., and for many of us, our favorite way to cope with impending anxiety is to eat.
Before you add guilt to an already full plate of anxiety, know that what you eat can decrease anxiety and add a delicious calm to your day–and your diet. “If we eat better foods like lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish, we short-circuit the junk food cravings and have higher energy levels and sharper mental focus,” Shawn Talbott, an author, and biochemist, says.
Here are eight delicious and effective foods to eat away anxiety before anxiety eats away at your health.
When stress does the cha-cha on your to-do list, it’s time to grab a bowl of guacamole. Avocado is loaded with potassium and B vitamins that release calming neurotransmitters like serotonin dopamine.
Recent studies show that eating blueberries can help reduce the genetic and biochemical drivers behind depression and suicidal tendencies associated with PTSD.
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3. Sweet potato
What is quickly becoming one of our most culinarily versatile foods, sweet potatoes are packed with nutrition. “They also work as a powerful stress-busting food because of their sweet flavor and high concentration of carbohydrates—two common stress-related cravings,” Keri Gans RD., nutrition expert, and author, says. Try substituting a sweet potato for your favorite baked potato served on the side.
4. Red meat
Yes, a lean steak can do wonders for your emotional disposition. In a study published by Felice Jacka, PhD., associate professor from Deakin’s Barwon Psychiatric Research Unit, the results were surprising. “When we looked at women consuming less than the recommended amount of red meat in our study, we found that they were twice as likely to have a diagnosed depressive or anxiety disorder as those consuming the recommended amount.” So, if your diet allows red meat, let the grill do the talking.
5. Whole grains
When stress strikes, refrain from attacking the muffins. Instead, look to whole grains to stave off feelings of anxiety. “Whole grains, oatmeal, barley, farro, and quinoa are all good choices,” Emily Woll, MS., nutrition expert for Ensign Group, says. “They help the body release serotonin.” Try pairing a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries, then wash it down with a soothing cup of mint tea.
Along with salmon, mackerel, tuna, and bluefish are all rich in omega-3 fatty acids. “The fatty acids found in these types of fish not only have specific brain-boosting properties to fight depression, but they are also good for your overall health,” Talbott says. Adding fish to your diet improves circulation and reduces inflammation.
In a study published by Adrian Lopresti, PhD., from Murdoch University, results showed turmeric extract “appears to elevate neurotransmitters such as serotonin, while lowering stress hormones, such as cortisol, and is a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory,” he says. If you are looking for a delicious way to enjoy turmeric’s health benefits, try replacing your morning coffee or tea with a cup of golden milk; a blend of turmeric, cinnamon, and black pepper mixed with your favorite milk.
Seaweed’s claim to fame isn’t its nutritional value. Instead, it’s about the iodine. “Consuming healthy levels of iodine is critically important to maintaining a healthy thyroid, a gland in your neck which helps produce and regulate hormones,” Nick English says. An underactive thyroid can lead to fatigue, depression, weight problems, and creates a higher susceptibility to diseases.
When life seems determined to stress you out, it’s good to know you have support waiting for you in the kitchen. By making healthy eating choices, you can say goodbye to anxiety and hello to a happy and healthy tomorrow.
This article originally published in The Daily Herald. It has been republished with permission.