When we think of food, we usually think of it as simply fuel for the body and a source of energy throughout the day—but we should not overlook how it can also affect our mental health. A previous post on the effects of diet on mental health by Riya-Mittal points out that the wrong food habits can lead to depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Alzheimer’s, and bipolar disorder. This is why we should pay careful attention to our diet and make sure we’re getting the right nutrition to fight off and prevent illnesses.
Here are some nutritious staples to add to your diet and help you manage stress and anxiety.
Nuts and Vegetables
Some nuts, like Brazil nuts, contain high amounts of selenium, a mineral that reduces inflammation and may improve mood. Vegetables such as soybeans and mushrooms are also a good source of selenium. On the other hand, nuts can also be an ideal source of vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that may treat anxiety and prevent depression.
Yogurt is known for its rich probiotic content. Probiotics contain "good bacteria," which are not only essential to maintain balance in our bodies but can also have a positive impact on brain health. Just like other dairy products, yogurt has anti-inflammatory properties that can combat stress, anxiety, and depression.
Other than being a great source of protein needed for growth and development, eggs also provide vitamin D. A study on the link between vitamin D and depression published by PubMed reveals a significant improvement in individuals with depression when they used vitamin D supplements. Eggs also contain amino acid tryptophan, which can help create serotonin to regulate mood, behavior, memory, and sleep. It’s also known to reduce anxiety and boost cognitive function.
Like eggs, dark chocolate is also high in tryptophan, which can produce mood-enhancing serotonin. It also contains magnesium to reduce symptoms of depression. To reap maximum benefits, it’s recommended to choose variants containing at least 70% dark chocolate.
Omega-3 is a fatty acid that helps reduce inflammation while promoting healthy brain function and mental wellbeing. It can be found in mackerel, trout, salmon, sardines, and herring. Salmon and sardines also happen to have vitamin D.
Coffee can sometimes have some side effects like palpitations and insomnia, but green coffee is ideal as a healthier alternative. A review of Lean N’ Green Coffee by Pretty Me outlines the many benefits of this natural beverage including its high antioxidant content that can promote heart health and reduce stress. In fact, a crossover study on green and black coffee by BioMed Research International finds that green coffee significantly decreases stress levels after consumption, compared to black coffee which can actually increase it.
If you’re still wary of caffeine consumption or are simply not a coffee person, green tea can be your go-to for a calming drink. A feature on green tea’s effect on anxiety by Science Focus highlights how matcha can help reduce anxiety. In Japan, matcha has been traditionally used for a myriad of purposes—from healing and relaxation, to obesity prevention and improving skin conditions.
Chamomile tea is more commonly known for its relaxing properties, especially if you’re looking to have some good quality sleep. Like green tea and green coffee, it's believed to reduce symptoms of anxiety as well. On top of this, chamomile can be used as herbal medicine because of its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
Zinc is a mineral that is essential for nerve and brain development and can also help cells fight off bacteria and viruses. Pumpkin seeds are a generous source of zinc and potassium, another mineral known to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress.
Turmeric is a popular spice in Indian cuisine. One of its active ingredients is curcumin, which helps lower oxidative stress and inflammation. As a result, it can help reduce anxiety too. Moreover, an increase in curcumin intake also gives you a boost of the fatty acid DHA to further reduce inflammation, regulate neurotransmitters, and promote healthy cognitive function.
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