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Soothing 5 Foods to Ease Anxiety & Stress

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Soothing 5 Foods to Ease Anxiety & Stress

Remedies to Calm Your Mind and Nourish Your Body
Joy Bauer
Oct 11, 2018 at 10:30 AM

Get ready to flip through the pages in my book, Joy's Simple Food Remedies, to find ailments that affect you or your loved ones. Take out a pen and paper to make a shopping like and prepare to start feeling better and live a happier, stress-free life! 

Bitten down fingernails, sweat circles around the armpits dark bags under the eyes these visible signs of anxiety and stress are worn by many. In fact, 40 million adults - that's more than 18 percent of us - suffer from anxiety disorders every year in the United States. It’s the most common psychological disorder in this country

Anxiety causes changes in the brain and in the body. When we’re feeling nervous or worried, neurotransmitters (chemicals that transports messages) signal to the sympathetic nervous system to increase breathing and heart rate and to contract muscles. It affects blood flow and the sweat glands and can cause lightheadedness nausea and other symptoms. It’s this fight or flight reaction that prepares us to deal with a“stressor” our boss asking us for that project we haven’t finished yet a honking car or a screaming toddler.

Of course, it’s important to make a distinction between these everyday stresses, which we all feel - and are totally normal - and chronic worry and apprehension, which can overwhelm you and leave you feeling out of control and paralyzed.

The latter is what may be recognized as a more serious disorder an actual diagnosable medical condition. This goes hand in hand with depression and should be treated by a doctor.

The encouraging news is that anxiety -  whether it’s occasional, low grade, or a more definitive disorder - is treatable.

Medication, therapy, positive self -talk, meditation and exercise are all effective tools.

Diet can soothe stress too calming foods can help by stabilizing blood sugar and increasing levels of serotonin a feel good hormone While we don’t know the exact mechanism  yet results from research thus far are compelling

Here are 5 soothing foods to ease anxiety and stress: 

1. Fatty Fish

The omega-3s in fatty fish make them a feel-good standout. Whether you’re reeling in salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, or Arctic char, you’re sure to get a beneficial boost. Numerous studies show that omega-3s are helpful in fighting depression, and one study found them to be particularly useful in combating anxiety, too.

Fatty fish are also among the best dietary sources of vitamin D. Research shows that low levels of this vitamin have been linked to depression, a condition that’s closely related to anxiety.

Salmon is wonderful on the grill or baked in the oven. You can add bite-size pieces to pasta dishes, casseroles, and even omelets and frittatas. You can enjoy it mashed up as a salad served over greens or on whole-grain bread. Or you can make scrumptious salmon patties by combining it with eggs, lemon juice, seasonings, and bread crumbs or rolled oats.

Arctic char has a milder, more delicate flavor than the stronger-tasting salmon. But just like salmon, it’s tasty cooked on the grill or in the oven. Finish it with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a mood-boosting dose of vitamin C.2 As for mackerel, you can swap it for tuna or salmon in most recipes—it has a strong flavor and is very oily. It works well with a simple preparation: Bake with a little salt and pepper and a squeeze of citrus.

And don’t forget about sardines. You may be surprised to find out that ounce for ounce, sardines contain just as much heart-healthy omega-3 fats as salmon. Not to mention, they’re extremely low in contaminants, eco-friendly (no need to worry about overfishing), packed with high-quality protein, and super affordable. If you buy canned sardines with the bones, you’ll get a hefty dose of calcium, too. If you’re a sardine lover (not everyone is!), consider this yummy open-faced sandwich: Spread 2 slices of whole-grain bread with a little bit of low-fat mayo or herb-infused extra-virgin olive oil and top each half with a couple of canned sardines, a slice of tomato, and a few fresh basil leaves.

2) Chickpeas

It doesn’t matter if they’re called chickpeas or garbanzo beans—they can spell relief for people who are feeling frazzled. Some research suggests that tryptophan depletion might be linked to anxiety.3 And fortunately, the little legume is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to help make serotonin, a feel-good chemical in the brain.

L-tryptophan (its full, scientific name) is just one amino acid in food that competes to get into the brain—and it’s one of the least abundant. To give it a competitive advantage to help cross the blood-brain barrier, it requires some carbohydrate. Doing so causes the body to release insulin, which helps move this powerful amino acid along. As it turns out, chickpeas are one-stop shopping: They contain tryptophan and slow-burning carb, a winning combination for destressing. Another small study found that men who consumed foods containing tryptophan with a dose of carbs had slightly lower anxiety scores than those who ate foods without tryptophan.


Chickpeas also contain folate, a B vitamin that helps regulate mood (a 1-cup serving of cooked chickpeas provides more than 70 percent of the daily recommended intake). Low blood levels of folate have been linked to an increased risk for depressive symptoms. Plus, the high protein (14.5 g per cooked cup) and high fiber (12.5 g per cooked cup) content can help steady blood sugars and stabilize mood.

You can easily add a scoop of this uplifting food to salads. You can also dunk veggies in hummus, which is a Mediterranean dip made from mashed chickpeas.

I love to mix chickpeas with another stress-squasher, salmon, in my Wild Salmon and Chickpea Salad: Mash 6 ounces of cooked wild boneless, skinless salmon. Mix with 1 can of garbanzo beans (rinsed and drained), 1/2 cup chopped red onion, and 1/2 cup chopped red pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons each extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar and season with preferred herbs and spices. Pour the dressing over the salmon mixture and stir. This simple recipe makes about 3 servings, and each portion comes packed with protein, fiber, omega-3s, tryptophan, and folate. Enjoy over greens or in a whole-grain pita.

3) Steel-Cut Oats

A cozy, soothing bowl of oatmeal is pure comfort food on a chilly morning. But it’s not just comforting in a physical, warm-your-bones sense. The whole-grain carb also contains the amino acid called tryptophan in almost the same amount as turkey. This dynamic duo helps stimulate the production of serotonin, the relaxation-promoting hormone, so it works on a physiological level, too.

All varieties of oats are great, but I particularly love the steel-cut type for anxiety and depression issues because they’re minimally processed, and they cause a slower, steadier rise in blood sugar, meaning they have a lower glycemic index compared to traditional and instant oats. Oats also contain some magnesium, and a deficiency in this mineral may be linked with depression (many people with anxiety will often go onto develop depression).

First, you can make steel-cut oats overnight in a slow cooker. Simply combine 1 cup of steel-cut oats with 4 cups of water and add the toppings of your choice, including fresh or dried fruit; chopped nuts; nut butter; spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie seasoning blend; and vanilla extract. You may also consider an optional sweetener like brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup. I prepare mine without added sweetener because the fruit and spice infuse so much flavor into the oatmeal. Then, before hitting the sack in the evening, set on a low setting for about 6 to 8 hours to cook overnight. When you rise, mix the tasty and comforting contents to combine everything in the slow cooker and get ready to shine with a breakfast that’s all set to be devoured. For guests, I serve optional sweeteners with additional fruit, nuts, and seeds on the side, so they can custom design their own bowl.

Option two for the morning rush: Prepare steel-cut oats in advance (on the stove top or using the slow-cooker method) and then freeze them in individual 1-cup portions. Then, in the morning, just pop a container out of the freezer, microwave (you may need to add a splash of water or milk to thin it out again), and it will be ready in minutes, just like regular oatmeal.

4) Orange

Orange you glad to see a mention of everyone’s favorite citrus fruit in this chapter? Getting your day started with a juicy orange or enjoying one for a snack may be a great way to help alleviate anxiety. That’s because the citrus star is rich in vitamin C—one orange contains 70 mg of the vitamin, filling almost your entire day’s needs. Women need 75 mg daily and men need 90 mg.

One study of 120 people found that those who took vitamin C for two weeks and had to face a nerve-wracking task (public speaking combined with a mental math test . . . aah!) showed fewer signs of stress.

They reported feeling less frazzled, had lower blood pressure, and saw their levels of the stress hormone cortisol return to normal faster than those who took a placebo. Researchers explained that the vitamin worked on multiple fronts. Not only did it have a subjective effect on participants (subjects reported feeling better), but it also worked on a cardiovascular (heart) and neuroendocrine (brain and hormones) level as well.5 Other research has shown a similar stress-soothing effect of the vitamin, which is better-known for boosting your immunity.

 Enjoy an orange with your breakfast or as a yummy afternoon snack paired with almonds or yogurt. Slice one up and add it to your salad for a bit of tart sweetness or add diced orange to salsa and use it as a topper for chicken or fish. You can also add orange sections to smoothies–it’s great paired with other vitamin C-rich fruits, such as strawberries, lemon, mango, pineapple, papaya, kiwi, or grapefruit. All are terrific mood-boosting choices.

 5) Chamomile Tea

Feeling stressed? Turn to a little herbal help. Chamomile appears to act as a mild sedative and may help relieve muscle tension and ease anxiety and irritability. One study showed that those who received a chamomile extract for eight weeks scored lower on an anxiety test than those who were given a placebo. The researchers suggested that chamomile can help with mild to moderate anxiety.6

The herb has been around for centuries—it’s one of the most commonly used and well-documented medicinal plants in the world. Tea and extracts are made from dried flowers of the plant, which has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, in addition to reducing anxiety. It’s estimated that more than 1 million cups of chamomile tea are sipped every day.

So pour yourself a cup of calm when you begin to feel a little tense; I often enjoy a mug of naturally caffeine-free chamomile tea before bed. I find it’s a perfect way to relax and unwind before hitting the sack. Or, if you’d like more flavor, you can whip up my “Chaos Calmer,” which features a few seasonal ingredients: Combine 1/2 cup of apple cider and 1/2 cup of water in a mug and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes, or until boiling. Add 1 chamomile tea bag, 1 strip of lemon peel, 1 cinnamon stick, and steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bag and cinnamon stick, take your first sip . . . and breathe a sigh of relief.

If you’re feeling a little stressed give this anxiety  easing eats all of which are healthful and delicious, a try. 

About Author
Joy Bauer
New York Times best-selling author Joy Bauer is one of the nation's leading health authorities. As the nutrition and health expert for NBC’s TODAY show, Joy shares reliable, practical, Continue reading