In her bounty, Nature has given us specific foods to help us better cope with stress and anxiety.
Scientists have long known that many of the foods we eat can alter our brain chemistry. Eating a healthy, natural foods based, balanced diet is the very best way to ensure the health of the nervous system. But when you are going through a period of particularly heightened stress or anxiety, just eating “healthy” may not be enough by itself. Focus on those foods that have a special affinity for calming down the mind, soothing the soul and relaxing the body.
Green tea is not just a beverage for hippies. It contains good amounts of a rare amino acids called L-theanine. There is a good deal of scientific research being conducted into the therapeutic effects of L-theanine and its ability to create a calmer, more relaxed state of mind. Chemically, it seems to work in an almost opposite way to caffeine: it reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure, slows the heart, and improves sleep.
Studies on acute anxiety, sleep, chronic stress and memory have demonstrated its effectiveness. Drink at least 2-3 cups of green tea per day, infusing the leaves for one minute, to get an optimum dose of L-theanine each day. L-Theanine works quickly, so you should feel the calming and soothing effects of it within half an hour after ingestion.
Almonds are an easy and delicious snack that helps to calm the mind. You see, almonds are one of the top food sources of magnesium — a mineral that is required every day for muscle relaxation, stress management, sleep, and increased bone density.
When you become deficient in this feel-good nutrient, you’re going to be more prone to experience insomnia, muscle tension, cramps, and anxiety. Eating a few almonds each day will provide all the magnesium you need, as well as important omega 6 and 9 fatty acids, protein, calcium and vitamin E.
For optimal results, eat almonds at night during or after dinner, as your body will take magnesium and integrate it back into your cells while you are sleeping.
Deep Sea Fish
It is well known now in the health community that fish and omega-3 oils provide a variety of benefits for the human brain.
As the primary fat in the brain is omega-3, people need to consume omega-3 oils every day to maintain good brain health. Once you have increased omega-3 in the diet, studies show that memory, mood and cognitive performance all improve, and at least one double-blind clinical study on medical students has found that omega-3 reduces symptoms of anxiety.
You can just supplement with omega-3 oil capsules, but consuming deep sea fish — the primary food source of omega-3 — has a host of other benefits as well. Fish contain protein, vitamins and minerals. Some fish, sardines and salmon, for example, contain good amounts of magnesium, a mineral which has a calming and relaxing effect, helping to reduce nervous tension. (It’s best to eat tuna sparingly because of the possible accumulation of mercury in this fish.)
Eat 2 to 3 servings of deep sea oily fish each week, eating from a wide range of species to get the most health benefits out of your improved seafood diet.
You don’t just eat spinach to be strong like Popeye. When your day has been long and difficult, spinach can offer support for your emotions and help you better deal with the stress. We now know that spinach positively effects the body’s serotonin levels. Serotonin is helpful in keeping anxiety and stress in check.
In addition, spinach contains chemicals which appear to attach to opioid receptors throughout the body, creating a feel-good effect and reducing symptoms of pain or tension. These combined actions make spinach a useful antidepressant, anti-anxiety, pain reliever and mood-enhancer, which can be cheaply and effortlessly added to the daily diet.
Spinach leaves do contain high levels of oxalic acid, and an overdose of this acid may lead to the formation of kidney stones in some people, so spinach is best blanched in hot water before eating. This will remove the majority of the oxalic acid from the leaves, while leaving the other nutrients intact.
Oats are a great way to start the day when you are feeling strained. Famous for their dietary fibres, called beta-glucans, which can reduce blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugars, scientists now know that oats also contain other chemicals which can support the nervous system.
Oats are a good source of the B complex vitamins — essential for the production of stress-reducing hormones. These vitamins also support the adrenal system’s function during stress, and are involved in numerous other important processes in the body. Studies have demonstrated that oats help with both short and long-term memory and overall cognitive function.
Oat bran in particular has some interesting ingredients. Gramine — a natural chemical found in oat bran — has been shown to have a beneficial, relaxing effect on the nervous system, reducing anxiety. Oat straw has similar alkaloids, which is likely the reason for its use in herbal medicine for stress and nervous exhaustion. Consuming oats, oat bran and oat straw tea on a regular basis is an excellent way to maintain brain health, calm the mind, and help manage stress levels.
Be sure to include these five foods in your diet on a regular basis and you’ll find yourself coping with stress and managing anxiety much better.