At 18 years old, my first year of college, I began suffering from panic attacks and decided that instead of turning to prescription drugs, I would seek alternative therapies such exercising and eating certain foods that lower anxiety to help me. What happened to me was quite profound and in many ways, I feel it saved my life. Suffering from two great losses at the time, one from a loss of friends and another from the loss of a serious relationship, life was extremely hard. I had never experienced anxiety in my life, yet found myself in a state of panic all the time. Luckily, when I started exercising and eating certain foods that lower anxiety, I found that I felt stable, balanced, and actually happier than I had in years, despite that I was having a hard time grieving the loss of those who were no longer in my life. I was finally able to cope again, and actually learned to enjoy being independent for once in my life. Today, I share my passion with others about what the benefits of nutrition and exercise can do for a person’s life; therefore, I wanted to share with you guys my favorite foods that lower anxiety if you suffer from anything similar. These seven foods are always in my fridge, along with many other anxiety busting foods. Check out my top picks and put them on your plate to soothe stress the right way, instead of opening that bag of chips and cookies to drown your sorrows in!
Fish was probably one of the best foods that lower anxiety that I added to my diet. Fish is a nutritional superstar for many reasons, each of which cater to aiding in dramatically reducing anxiety. Let’s start with the basics. Fish is rich in protein and B vitamins, which tame tension, but fish is also rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, which have been proven to reduce cardiovascular disease, aid in blood sugar regulation, and fuel neurons in the brain that prevent and actually treat depression. Fish is also a top source of magnesium, a mineral that aids in nervous system function, and promotes relaxation. Best of all, fish is one of the best sources of tryptophan, an amino acid found in certain foods which lowers stress hormones in the body, and provides a sense of calmness, while also keeping you alert without the jitters. A deficiency in tryptophan has been linked to anxiety, depression and high blood pressure, along with mood disorders. Fish is also easy to digest and a fantastic source of lean protein, making it a wonderful food to eat for anxiety. To keep it healthy, be sure to choose wild fish over farmed, and stay clear of the fried stuff.
Asparagus is rich in folate, an important B vitamin that converts to folic acid in the body. Depression and anxiety have been linked to a folic acid deficiency in the body, and asparagus is one of the top food sources of this nutrient. Asparagus is also rich in Vitamin C and fiber. Vitamin C aids in reducing blood pressure and heart disease, and fiber helps to slow down blood sugar in the body by promoting a sense of fullness. High blood sugar contributes to anxiety, therefore eating foods high in fiber is a great way to reduce high blood pressure. Asparagus is delicious grilled with some lemon juice and black pepper and it pairs well with many foods.
3. Greek Yogurt
Many people are on the fence with dairy, but unless you’re vegan, most people can’t argue the benefits of Greek yogurt, especially the plain, unsweetened kind. Greek yogurt is fat-free, contains almost 22 grams of protein per 6 ounce serving, for only around 120 calories. Better than that, it reduces anxiety by lowering blood pressure and serves up a healthy dose of Vitamins B6 and B12. Greek yogurt is also rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium and protein, which all quell anxiety very quickly. Mix some up with a little cinnamon and stevia or honey for a deliciously sweet treat that lowers blood sugar and satisfies your sweet tooth.
Almonds are an excellent source of Vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, potassium, manganese, plant protein, and healthy fats. They are great to nosh on when you’ve got the jitters, or when you need an afternoon pick-me-up. Almonds’ crunch and slightly sweet taste also make them very satisfying, so you’re less inclined to pick up unhealthy snacks instead. Their fat also helps to keep you full and their fiber slows down your blood sugar levels. Choose raw almonds over roasted and avoid the salted varieties since sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, which actually induces anxiety.
While spinach may not seem like what you want to eat when you’re stressed, the best thing to do is eat this superstar veggie around the clock so anxiety rarely finds its way near you. Spinach is slam packed with magnesium, which is one of the best minerals you can consume to prevent and treat anxiety. Magnesium helps regulate cortisol levels and promote feelings of well-being. A mere cup of spinach fills 40 percent of your daily quota of magnesium, plus 5 grams of protein. Spinach is also rich in folate, the B vitamin that converts to folic acid. Slip some in with your morning eggs, throw it in a smoothie, or for a top anxiety-busting meal, make a spinach salad and top it with fish for a superstar meal that chases anxiety far, far away.
I love turkey for many reasons and try to buy organic meats whenever possible, making turkey a real treat when I get to have it. Turkey is such a great anxiety-busting food. Turkey is one of the best sources of tryptophan, which is why it is associated with that sleepy feeling you get after eating Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, however, doesn’t make you sleepy as much as all those carbs do in a Thanksgiving meal, yet turkey does send a strong sense of calmness throughout the entire body due to the high amount of tryptophan it contains. The lean protein, however, will keep you alert and awake, while the tryptophan content will simply allow you to be more relaxed and calm. Turkey is great for your hormones and your metabolism, so be sure to choose unprocessed turkey whenever you can and avoid the high sodium varieties found in processed lunch meats. Again, high sodium levels actually contribute to high blood pressure, which induces anxiety, so reducing high sodium foods is very important.
Oats are a wonderful source of B vitamins, magnesium, and fiber. Each of these nutrients are extremely important in reducing anxiety. Oats are one of the best food sources that promote serotonin production,, which is the antidepressant hormone in the body. Anytime serotonin is low, anxiety will increase, so foods that aid in serotonin production are extremely important in quelling anxiety. Eat whole oats instead of instant, and always avoid the sugary instant oatmeal packets. Instead, choose old fashioned oats and cook them yourself. I like to make homemade breakfast cookies with them, using simple ingredients like applesauce, stevia, chopped almonds and cinnamon. They make for great grab and go cookies if you’re in a hurry, or just need one or two when your blood sugar drops.
Eating healthy foods such as these to prevent anxiety is one of the best natural approaches you can take to beating anxiety, along with regular exercise. There are many other foods that help tame anxiety, but these foods are some of the best sources of various nutrients that offer multiple benefits to treat and prevent anxiety. What is your favorite healthy food that calms you down when you’re stressed?