Foods That Help to Reduce Anxiety - Beautiful Eats & Things

Foods That Help to Reduce Anxiety

Depressive disorders are the leading cause of disability among individuals aged 15-44. Food alone likely is not a “cure” for depressive disorders and I don’t want to make light of that. Food choices can impact the way we function including our brain and mood. Below we’ll talk about how nutrition can affect our mood and the best foods that help to reduce anxiety! 

How does nutrition impact mood?

Research has shown that “whole food” or “traditional” eating patterns are significantly related to a decrease in depressive symptoms or disorders. The Mediterranean diet is an example of a “traditional” eating pattern. The “whole food” or “traditional” approach to eating has less added sugars, fat, and processed (including ultra-processed) food choices. On the opposite end is the Western diet which is typically lacking in adequate fiber, vegetables, fish/seafood and high in added sugars, fat and processed foods. 

When you are stressed it affects your food choices. It can either lead to overeating and choosing more high-fat, high-sugar foods or just not eating at all leading to not only weight loss, but a lack of nutrition. It is so important to remember that if you aren’t eating enough then it also means there is a strong possibility your body is not receiving the nutrients it needs to properly function. 

As a side note here, this is one of the reasons why it isn’t always good to compliment someone who has lost weight. It’s because you don’t know how they lost the weight. It could be due to stress and/or illness. 

Boost mood with these foods

Omega 3 Rich Foods

Omega 3’s can affect depression, mood and behavior. Omega 3’s play an important role in brain development and function. Low blood levels of omega 3’s are associated with depression which shows its link to mood disorders.

This Spicy Tahini Salmon Garden Rice Bowl is made with Success Garden Rice Blends, sliced cucumbers, edamame, grape tomatoes, red onions, and salmon; served in a white bowl beautifuleatsandthings.com

Which foods are rich in omega 3’s? 

Fish and seafood such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna

Plant oils such as flaxseed oil and canola oil

Nuts and seeds like ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts

Fortified foods like some eggs, milk and soy beverages

Side note: a fortified food is a food that does not naturally contain a nutrient but gets that specific nutrient added to it for health benefits.  

dark chocolate cranberry bark with pistachios, dried cranberries, cacao nibs, and flax seeds stacked on a white surface

Chocolate

A study found that chocolate brought out joy in participants that was seen 5-30 minutes after they ate it. Chocolate can help reduce tension and increase good mood through serotonin signaling. Even with all this good news chocolate should still be eaten in moderation. Check out my article for more on the Surprising Health Benefits of Chocolate

Fruits and vegetables 

Another study followed 385 adults for 6 years and found that as they ate more fruits and vegetables it increased their life satisfaction, well-being and overall happiness. The example that was used to describe their happiness was equivalent to an unemployed person finding a job! 

Legumes and Whole Grains

Legumes and whole grains are good sources of iron, thiamine and folic acid. Nutrients such as iron, thiamine and folic acid can influence emotions. Symptoms of iron deficiency include depressed mood, lethargy and trouble paying attention. A thiamine deficiency can affect brain function and impair mood. Folic acid has a very important role in brain function and deficiency is associated with a depressed mood.

Examples of legumes include lentils, peas and beans.

Examples of whole grains include brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain cereals like a Raisin Bran and others. 

Meat, fish and seafood also provide iron and thiamine. 

Beat the blues with these snacks

Since you now know that stressful situations can make you reach for less desirable foods more often, let’s talk about some of the best snacks to keep on hand. Prepare yourself ahead of time. Make it a point to have healthy snacks in your kitchen, at work, and maybe even in the car or your purse (for those tempting road rage moments). 

Fruits that keep well on the go include:

  • Raisins
  • Individual cups of applesauce 
  • Fresh apples, mandarins, pear or bananas 
  • Fruit cups in 100% fruit juice 
Healthy Snacking On-the-Go with Jack Links beautifuleatsandthings.com

More great snacks:

  • Nuts like walnuts, pistachios and almonds 
  • Cheesesticks
  • Yogurt
  • High-fiber granola bar with at least 5 grams of fiber

Mental health resources 

When you need help right away

Find a health care provider or treatment

  • Talk to your primary care doctor for resources and referrals

Check out federal resources

Check out one of our best sellers in support of raising awareness about Mental Health!

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