Anxiety is growing as Americans are experiencing prolonged stress (and with good reason). Of course, if you are experiencing chronic anxiety or depression, it is best to see a psychiatrist or a medical professional to get the help you need, the experts always recommend. But making lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly and changing what you eat can help support your efforts to stay mentally and physically healthy. The first step is to alter your diet to incorporate more stress-blocking foods so you can take the initiative in taking better care of yourself.
Harvard nutritional psychiatrist, Dr. Uma Naidoo, MD knows a thing or two about medicinal foods. Is director of the Department of Psychiatry, Nutrition and Lifestyle at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of Here̵7;s your brain for food: An indispensable guide to surprising foods against depression, anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and more.She has long fostered the connection between what we eat and how we feel. Unsurprisingly, in the world of all-plant foods, there’s no shortage of options to help relieve your anxiety.
“There are many foods of plant origin, especially those rich in magnesium, vitamins C, D, B1 and B6 that can help alleviate anxiety. Adding these to a vegan, all-food diet can help reduce stress and anxiety, so why not try them? “
1. Homemade dark chocolate or melt it down and dip your favorite berries in it
“Dark chocolate is rich in cocoa flavonoids that provide brain antioxidants and reduce inflammation. One human study found that dark chocolate appeared to be an effective way to reduce cognitive stress in women, ”says Naidoo. The secret lies in cocoa beans, she explained. “After the cocoa beans are harvested, they are fermented and then dried in the sun. Due to the fermentation process, raw cocoa is filled with probiotics which are good bacteria for your gut. The flavonoids are abundant in dark chocolate making them rich in antioxidants. These are great because they reduce inflammation in the body, a common cause of mental health problems, ”she said.
In addition, chocolate is also rich in the so-called “love molecule”, phenethylamine and the “happy hormone”, serotonin. “These good mood hormones are only found in real chocolate. Those are candy bars [laden with sugar, artificial ingredients, and the like that] we need to stay away, ”added Naidoo. Look for bars that are pure dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa content. To learn more about the many health benefits of cocoa, read our guide here.
2. Turmeric with a bit of black pepper in your smoothie or rice bowl
The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, relieves anxiety and changes the corresponding brain chemistry, protecting the hippocampus. Curcumin’s positive effects on anxiety have been confirmed by animal studies and three human trials, ”Naidoo commented.
Don’t have many chefs? If you don’t regularly add turmeric and black pepper to curries, stews, homemade soups, etc., Naidoo recommends adding ¼-teaspoons with a bit of black pepper to tea, soups or smoothies every day. . She explained: “The piperine from black pepper activates curcumin in turmeric, making it much more bioavailable to the brain and body.
3. Foods rich in vitamin D such as mushrooms and plant-based milk
The link between vitamin D and your mood is pretty amazing: “Studies have shown that depressed and anxious adults have lower blood levels of vitamin D. Drug D every two weeks changes their anxiety level. After sixteen weeks, compared to those taking a placebo, vitamin D users were significantly less anxious, ”says Naidoo. “In another study, when vitamin D was used as part of micronutrient intervention for more than 8,000 people with depression and anxiety, keeping vitamin D levels high would help protect against anxiety,” she said. continue. Naidoo’s favorite vitamin D-rich plant-based foods include dried (dehydrated) mushrooms and mushrooms and fortified soy milk, rice or grain milk are good options.
Today, we are all spending a lot of time at home amid a pandemic of coronavirus, but it’s still important to find safe ways to get fresh air as about 80% of our vitamin D comes from expose skin to direct sunlight. Naidoo – and the sunlight entering through the window is no substitute for going outside because the glass absorbs the ultraviolet rays your body needs to convert it into vitamin D.
4. Fiber-rich foods like broccoli and Brussels sprouts
In addition to keeping digestion running smoothly and keeping you full for longer (which can help limit overeating), high-fiber foods prove to be a welcome partner in one approach. to combat anxiety. “In 2018, researchers found that a high-fiber diet could reduce the risk of depression, anxiety and stress. Fiber is a food consisting of food ingredients that cannot be digested by our natural gut enzymes. However, even though our gut itself cannot break down fiber, different types of gut bacteria can. When the fiber in food can be broken down by bacteria, we call it ‘fermentable’, Naidoo explains, adding that this form of fiber encourages an increase of “good” bacteria in your gut.
“For example, when fiber is broken down into several smaller sugar molecules, the ‘good’ bacteria Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus increase, which has a positive effect on mood by activating the brain pathways and signals,” she said. Neurological effects can reduce anxiety. It’s also interesting to note that along with reducing inflammation in your body, fiber has the same effect in your brain. She went on to cite a 2016 study that found that people with anxiety disorders had increased levels of some of the inflammatory markers.
The good news is that what you eat may play a role in reducing inflammation. “Inflammation in the brain has been shown to affect areas associated with anxiety (eg, the amygdala) and fiber may help calm the inflammatory response of the brain and body,” says Naidoo. .
Whole plant foods are rich in natural fiber. Some great options for the fiber boost Naidoo recommends include pears, apples, bananas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, artichokes, almonds, walnuts, amaranth, oats, buckwheat barley and pearl barley.
5. Fermented foods. Crossing kombucha
Feel calmer after a bottle of kombucha? Science can help explain that phenomenon.
“The positive cultures of fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and miso are excellent sources of live bacteria that can boost healthy gut function and reduce anxiety,” Naidoo said.
In particular, for your noggin, fermented foods can offer a variety of benefits. “In 2015, a study asked 710 people about their consumption of fermented foods, social anxiety, and psychotic characteristics. It found that eating fermented foods regularly was associated with alleviation of symptoms of social anxiety in psychotic patients. Combined with previous studies, the results suggest that fermented foods containing probiotics may have a protective effect against social anxiety symptoms for people at higher genetic risk, ”Naidoo given.
In addition to the options mentioned above, eating pickled and fermented vegetables is another way to incorporate these foods into your daily diet.