Our last article, Understanding How Food Can Help Manage Anxiety, described reasons foods can help alleviate some of the symptoms of anxiety. This article will give more specifics on which specific nutrients and foods have worked well for me and why. I have kept certain foods in my daily diet to help keep my own anxiety at bay. Here are my picks for best anxiety relieving foods, followed up with some healthy meal ideas!
#1 TRYTOPHAN- (My favorite: Turkey)
If you are looking for relaxation, foods containing tryptophan are my number one choice. We are all familiar with the tryptophan in turkey that allows us to get relaxed and sleepy over Thanksgiving. Well, this can’t be more true. For those days I feel a little tense, there is nothing more soothing than some turkey and sweet potatoes to take the edge off. Having trouble getting to sleep at night? Having a small portion of turkey and carbohydrate before bedtime may give you the additional dose of relaxation to help you fall asleep faster. Other great tryptophan containing foods are: milk, cheese, nuts, salmon, pineapples, eggs, beans, spirulina, spinach, chickpeas, avocado, bananas, potatoes, soy, and beets. (For more about why you should eat a carbohydrate with a tryptophan containing food see Understanding How Food Can Help Manage Anxiety)
#2 FOLIC ACID- (My favorite: Wheat Germ)
Folic Acid has proven itself to me time and time again, and my favorite "go-to" food item is wheat germ. What I love about wheat germ is that I don't have to cook it or prepare anything for it. When I start to feel tense and even depressed, I just sprinkle some on my yogurt, or my salads, and I can even sprinkle it in my ice cream. It contains the folic acid I need, but also contains thiamine, which are both attributed to helping raise serotonin levels and cognitive function. Low levels of folic acid have been linked to anxiety, so finding sources of this nutrient can be extremely helpful. After consuming wheat germ, I can feel more energetic and in a better mood by the next day. I feel less tense, and ready to take on the day! Other sources for folic acid are: asparagus, lentils, avocado, spinach, nuts and citrus fruits.
#3 VITAMIN C- (My favorite: Broccoli)
Vitamin C has been proven to help decrease the levels of cortisol in the body. I have to admit that ever since I added broccoli into my diet on a regular basis, my body is happier. Broccoli, like other cruciferous vegetables are the “cleansing tools” for our intestines. So, not only do they help to maintain a healthy colon, (and a happy colon is a happier you), it contains high levels of vitamin C to help lower cortisol levels. Most people who have adrenal fatigue have high levels of cortisol in their body, so broccoli is a great food to consume. Broccoli also contains a good amount of folic acid as well, which makes this a great food to include in the diet, and a staple in our home. Other great sources of vitamin C are: citrus fruits, kale, red peppers, and Brussels sprouts. (For more about how cortisol affects your body, see our last article: Understanding How Food Can Help Manage Anxiety).
HEALTHY MEAL IDEAS:
Always remember when starting changes in your diet, you also need to be aware of what you need to stay away from. Remember that any stimulants will only add to your anxiety. Staying away from anything with caffeine is the best place to start. (coffee, chocolate, energy drinks). Ingesting too much sugar can also have an affect on your anxiety, so try to keep the amount in check as well. Read the labels on everything you buy from the store, and stay clear from items that contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. This name seems to change in order to fool consumers, so staying away from processed foods and eating more whole foods is a great way to stay on top of what enters your body. Making your meals, although sometimes difficult due to time constraints, is the best way to to go. Try to make more time cook meals, or select a day of cooking for the week, or freeze what you can.
Remember that it takes a conscious effort on your part, to be successful. And be conscious of what foods you are consuming. If you eat a good portion of broccoli, but then follow it up with a bag of chips or cookies, you are defeating the purpose. Diet changes are difficult, so remember be patient with your body. It is also important to remain positive and not get frustrated or down on yourself when failures occur.. because they will. And it's OK. Use these foods as building blocks, or stepping stones instead of a reason for defeat. Remember when you're actively thinking about your anxiety, you're giving anxiety more fuel. Keeping busy is a great way to keep your mind off of negative thoughts. Go for walks, find a craft, get involved with others, because when you start to understand that you don't get anxiety when you are busy, you realize that focusing on anxiety really isn't that important.
Introduce healthy habits into your life. Eating properly, taking time for yourself, staying active, exercising, smiling, and learning how to enjoy life are great tools for managing anxiety.
With Peace and Love.. XO
Michelle has a BS, E-RYT, YACEP, CHN, CLYL, and Y12SRL.