The 5 Best Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
By Brandi Black, RHN
Stress, anxiety and depression are all too common in today's society. Learn about the 5 best foods for stress and anxiety.
Feeling stressed out and anxious isn’t foreign to the average American. In fact, it’s estimated 40 million adults in the United States (age 18 and older) suffer from anxiety disorders. And based on the nature of our modern day, chaotic lifestyles, stress is something many of us also experience daily (1).
To avoid the negative effects of stress on your body, it’s important to manage your stress on an emotional, physical and nutritional level. Many of the foods found in nature contain nutrients that help calm your nervous system, boost your mood and energy levels, and lower elevated stress hormones. In fact, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are often contributing factors to anxiety disorders and depression, which is why proper nutrition is a must for your health and wellness— especially during times of difficult emotion.
Feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed affects everyone’s appetite differently, which is why some of us may skip meals when we’re feeling low, or gravitate towards sweets and processed “comfort” foods. Understandably, taking control of your appetite during these times can be difficult—- however, increasing stress-busting nutrients in your diet may make all the difference in how you cope with and respond to stress.
Here are the 5 best foods to reduce your stress levels, and manage feelings of stress and anxiety.
1. Sauerkraut Probiotic Sauerkraut: It’s more than a hot dog condiment— it’s a mood superfood.
As a fermented food, sauerkraut contains strains of beneficial bacteria (or probiotics), which are the most important nutrient for keeping your digestive system healthy. But studies show a strong link between gut health and your mood, which suggests probiotics may also be critical for your emotional well-being.
Research shows approximately 95% of your body’s serotonin (the neurotransmitter that makes us feel calm, happy, confident and relaxed) is produced by the healthy bacteria in your gut— which means a lack of good bacteria in your GI tract can lead to low serotonin, and promote depression and other mood disorders (2).
Regularly eating probiotic foods may help improve your balance of healthy gut bacteria, and therefore your mood. I recommend eating ¼ cup of sauerkraut each day, and getting probiotics from other fermented foods such as apple cider vinegar, kimchi, beet kvass, coconut milk kefir and kombucha. You can also take probiotic nutritional supplements, which can be found in the refrigerated section of your local health food store.
2. Chlorella Chlorella helps with stress The amazing green superfood, chlorella, has many stress-busting benefits when taken on a regular basis. Not only is chlorella one of the only plant foods to contain a highly absorbable form of vitamin B12 (which is needed to maintain a balanced mood), it’s also a natural chelator that may help with heavy metal detoxification (3).
Heavy metals, such as mercury, aluminum and lead, have been linked to the development of severe anxiety disorders. We absorb heavy metals from pollution in the air we breathe, the water we drink and in body care products and cosmetics. The problem with these heavy metals is they can accumulate deep in our tissues and negatively affect our central nervous system and neurological function (4).
Luckily, chlorella has powerful body detoxification benefits and can bind to these heavy metals and safely eliminate them (which is the process of chelation), to help prevent them from causing permanent damage to your nervous system.
You can take chlorella as a whole food supplement with Sun Chlorella tablets, Sun Chlorella powder and Sun Chlorella granules. Learn more about the mind and body benefits of Sun Chlorella.
3. Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)
Eleuthero is an adaptogen Eleuthero (also known as siberian ginseng) belongs to a class of herbs called adaptogens, which help your body cope with and adapt to changes in your environment— including stress.
Eleuthero is considered one of the most powerful superfoods for managing stress and anxiety naturally. Eleuthero benefits the mind and body by lowering elevated stress hormones, such as cortisol, and has been shown to increase mental focus and energy (which often decline with stress) without negative side effects or jitters (5).
You can take eleuthero daily as a nutritional supplement with Organic Sun Eleuthero tablets, and sip on eleuthero tea, such as Infuse Your Mood Herbal Tea. You can also add Sun Eleuthero extract to your snack and dessert recipes— one of our favorite snacks are these Organic Sun Eleuthero Energy Bars.
4. Pumpkin Seeds Foods that help with stress Pumpkin seeds are high in the mineral, zinc, which has been called a “natural antidepressant.”
Certain minerals work together in the body to perform specific functions, and zinc works with copper to maintain a balanced mood. An imbalanced zinc and copper ratio has been linked to anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. In fact, research has also recognized the importance of addressing and treating zinc deficiency in patients with depression (6)(7).
Snacking on pumpkin seeds each day will help boost your zinc levels. You can also get zinc from oysters, grass-fed beef, flaxseed and shellfish.
5. Dark Chocolate Dark Chocolate
If you crave chocolate when you’re stressed out, there may be some science behind that. Studies suggest cocoa powder has beneficial “actions” on the brain and positive effects on mood because it contains both serotonin and tyrosine (which is a precursor to dopamine— our reward and pleasure center neurotransmitter) (8).
Dark chocolate also contains magnesium, which is often referred to as a “natural chill pill” because it has a calming effect on the nervous system.
When it comes to eating dark chocolate for its mood enhancing benefits, always be sure to choose a variety that’s 70% dark chocolate or higher, with no refined sugar or artificial sweeteners added. If you find the taste bitter, I recommend pairing it with a tablespoon of organic almond butter for a yummy snack.
As you can see, offering your body stress support through nutrition is simple— especially when it involves eating chocolate. Taking whole food supplements such as probiotics, chlorella and adaptogenic herbs like eleuthero will also ensure your mind and body are fueled with the proper nutrition to handle stress, so you can experience the most joy and pleasure life has to offer each day.
It’s always important to check in with a licensed healthcare practitioner before adding a nutritional supplement to your diet.
About Brandi Black, RHN
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist from Vancouver, B.C. Experiencing her own health challenges at a young age led her to become passionate about educating on the healing properties of food, and how to achieve hormone balance, clear skin and sustainable weight loss naturally. In her spare time you'll find Brandi writing in her blog and hanging out with her teacup chihuahua, Coconut.
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