The connection between the food we eat and our mood is proven to be strong. The research on this has been garnering increased attention as more and more studies suggest how food can be used as a therapeutic tool in bettering our overall mood. There is less research overall on the connection between food and anxiety, but there is a lot of data that highlights the need for focusing on nutrient-dense whole foods as a solution to keep us feeling less anxious and more calm. With so many of us facing heightened levels of stress, healthy eating has never been more important. Ahead are seven stress-busting foods to consider adding to your healthy eating plan.
7 Stress-Busting Foods To Add to Your Healthy Eating Plan
We all know turmeric as a powerful anti-inflammatory spice, but one little-known benefit has to do with brain health, which is why it’s on the list of our favorite stress-busting foods. In one animal study, curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, helped to boost the Omega 3 fatty acid DHA, an essential fat for our brain health. This is especially important if you aren’t consuming much fish as DHA is found abundantly in fatty fish like salmon and mackerel. DHA is the most abundant fatty acid in our brain tissue, and lower levels of DHA have been linked to anxiety-like behavior.
Consider adding turmeric to your smoothies, or try making a yummy turmeric latte.
#2 Fatty Fish
As mentioned before, deficiency in Omega 3 fats has been linked to higher levels of anxiety. When it comes to the research — one recent meta-analysis reviewed 19 studies with over 1,000 participants and concluded that Omega-3 fats were associated with significant reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Consider enjoying stress-busting foods that are rich in these fats like salmon, mackerel, and sardines.
#3 Foods Rich in Zinc
Zinc has been linked to GABA and glutamate, neurotransmitters responsible for regulating and influencing our mood. Lower levels of this nutrient have been linked to both depression and anxiety.
When it comes to getting zinc-rich foods into your diet, oysters will give you the most bang for your buck as they contain more zinc per serving than any other food. If you aren’t into oysters, nuts like cashews, pumpkin seeds, legumes, and red meat are also excellent sources of dietary zinc.
#4 Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are rich in magnesium, a nutrient that may be a major player in anxiety-like behaviors. In one animal study using rats, dietary magnesium restriction increased and enhanced anxiety-like behavior.
Consider adding more dark leafy greens to your diet by adding a handful of spinach or kale to smoothies, adding chopped kale to veggie omelets, or chopped spinach to tacos!
Some research suggests that both major depression and anxiety are correlated with a lowered total antioxidant state.
Berries are incredibly rich in antioxidants making them a perfect food to help lower and fight inflammation. Other anti-inflammatory foods include olive oil and avocados, making these nutrient-dense, stress-busting foods to consider adding to your healthy eating plan.
Try adding berries on top of your morning bowl of oatmeal, blended into a smoothie, or enjoyed as an anti-inflammatory snack paired with a handful of nuts and seeds.
#6 Dark Chocolate
Need another excuse to have a piece of dark chocolate? Here’s one — this stress-busting food is rich in flavonoids, an antioxidant plant compound that has anti-inflammatory properties. It may be these compounds that are responsible for the brain health benefits of dark chocolate. One study showed that 40mg of dark chocolate a day for two weeks was able to reduce perceived stress in female medical students.
Dark chocolate is one of the more common (and tasty) foods that reduce stress, but keep in mind — not all dark chocolate has stress-busting benefits. To get the anti-inflammatory effects, opt for unsweetened cacao or 70% or darker unsweetened dark chocolate.
Here’s a delicious tip: for a simple stress-busting smoothie hack, stir a tablespoon of cacao powder into your smoothie for a yummy on-the-go breakfast or tasty snack.
#7 Green Tea
While not exactly a stress-busting food, green tea is a great stress-busting beverage to consider — it makes a great alternative to that morning cup of coffee.
Abundant in green tea is an amino acid called L-theanine. In a review of 5 randomized controlled trials, including over 100 individuals, four demonstrated that L-theanine was able to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety in those experiencing stressful situations.
Not a big green tea fan? Another great way to gain the stress-fighting benefits of this tea is by whipping up a matcha green tea latte. Matcha is made through a process where the leaves are grown in the shade and then ground into powder. This process results in a more earthy flavor, and since the whole green tea leaf is ingested, you gain the benefits of the rich L-theanine content, making matcha green tea a great beverage for stress.
Here’s how to make a matcha latte.
Stress-Busting Matcha Latte
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- 1 tbsp hot water
- 1 cup warm oat milk (or dairy-free milk of choice)
- Drizzle of honey
- Add the matcha powder to a mug and add the hot water. Whisk until no lumps remain.
- Add the warm oat milk and drizzle with honey.
- Whisk again.
- Sip and enjoy!
Fueling Your Eating Plan With Stress-Busting Foods
These nutrient-dense whole foods aren’t just great to enjoy during times of stress — they all make healthy additions to a healthy eating plan. When it comes to supporting your body during times of increased stress, focus on whole foods that are nutrient-dense while also reducing your added sugar intake throughout the week. Sugar is inflammatory, and when combating stress and anxiety, we want to focus on decreasing inflammation. So grab yourself some dark chocolate and green tea and relax!
Bonus tip — pair wholesome eating with a regular exercise and meditation practice, all of which are key for reducing feelings of stress and supporting an overall healthy lifestyle.
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