The 4 Best Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
By Brandi Black, RHN
Feeling stressed out and anxious isn’t foreign to the average American. In fact, many adults in the United States (age 18 and older) have experienced anxiety at one point in their lives. And based on the nature of our modern, chaotic lifestyles, stress is something many of us may occasionally experience (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 foods found in nature contain nutrients that help calm your nervous system and boost your mood and energy levels. At times, vitamin and mineral deficiencies may contribute to anxiety, which is why proper nutrition is a must for your health and wellness— especially during times of difficult emotions.
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 stressful 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 4 best foods and supplements to manage feelings of occasional stress and anxiety.
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. Studies have found links between gut health and your mood, which suggests probiotics may also be helpful for your emotional well-being.
Much of your body’s serotonin (the neurotransmitter that makes us feel calm, happy, confident and relaxed) is produced in your gut— so keeping your gut healthy can help keep your serotonin levels in check.
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. Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)
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 occasional stress.
Eleuthero is considered one of the most powerful adaptogens for managing occasional stress and anxiety naturally. Eleuthero benefits your mental focus and energy (which often decline with stress) without negative side effects or jitters.
You can take eleuthero daily as a nutritional supplement with Organic Sun
Eleuthero tablets, or 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. Adding eleuthero into your daily nutrition
regimen brings lots of added benefits and health effects to your body.
3. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are high in the mineral, zinc.
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 and other mood imbalances.
Snacking on pumpkin seeds each day will help boost your zinc levels. You can also get zinc from flaxseed as well.
4. 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).
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.
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.
Author: 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.