In this fast-paced, technology-driven, junk-food-loving society, it seems that stress and anxiety are part of everyone’s life. If you’re experiencing muscle tension, restlessness, rapid pulse, upset stomach, breathing difficulties, headaches, irritability, excess sweating, sleep problems and fatigue, you could be suffering from anxiety brought on by an excess of the stress hormone cortisol.
What many people don’t realize is that eating the right food can reduce cortisol, thus reducing many of the above sensations. This means that through healthy food consumption you can improve the way you feel and look just by altering your diet.
Including more vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli and spinach, which contain vitamins and other nutrients you can elevate mood-enhancing hormones in your body and decrease cortisol. Spinach in particular is high in magnesium and also contains folic acid, which has been found to be lacking in people with depression. Kale is another great choice.
If steaming vegetables is not appealing to you, try grilling them with a little olive or coconut oil and sea salt. This is a delicious alternative. With better weather around the corner, grilling is a healthier option while enhancing flavour.
Along with vegetables, regular consumption of fresh fruit provides vitamins that are great for combating anxiety. Citrus fruit and strawberries for instance, have been found to help decrease stress and anxiety by increasing levels of vitamin C; a great antioxidant. In stressful situations, adding antioxidants such as berries and pomegranates to your diet can help protect against and reduce anxiety. Also, Adding fresh berries to oatmeal or Greek yogurt is an easy way to get your daily dose of these powerful antioxidants.
Fatty acids including omega-3 are essential in everyone’s diet. Not only do they help the body function, they also play double duty in combating anxiety! Omega-3s have been found to decrease cortisol levels and decrease spikes of adrenalin (the “fight or flight” hormone). Omega-3 fats have also been shown to decrease production of cytokines, which are chemicals involved in immune response and inflammation. Elevated cytokine levels are commonly found in people who experience stress and even depression. Omega-3 fatty acids deliver many health benefits and are readily available. Foods rich in omega-3s include flax seeds and flax seed oil, nuts and fish. Grilling fish with olive oil, lemon and sea salt is one way you can get a great supply, while helping you maintain a more positive outlook.
According to the Mayo Clinic, including whole-grain carbohydrates in your diet can help minimize stress and reduce anxiety levels. Carbohydrates help increase levels of serotonin, a mood-elevating body chemical. So although carbohydrates have been given a bad rap, choosing complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, and whole-grain or spelt pasta, can make you feel good and give you the energy you need to get through the day.
Not only is what you eat important, how you eat can also make a difference. Changing your eating habits can also contribute to reducing anxiety.
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