Seven superfoods that may ease anxiety: From stress-busting salmon to serotonin-boosting blueberries
- Many of us may still struggle to combat anxiety after cutting out caffeine
- Below are seven foods that experts suggest could help combat the feeling
- READ MORE: Doctors debunk myth that you should steer clear of whole fruits
If you’ve tried cutting out caffeine, exercising and getting eight hours of sleep every night and are still anxious, you might want to make some diet tweaks.
Research shows that the gut and anxiety are closely linked, with a lack of some vitamins and nutrients linked by some studies to feelings of worry and concern.
Anxiety is also linked to inflammation in the body, with some foods able to counter-act this and reduce damage to the body’s cells.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, and uneasiness and is often triggered by stressful situations such as being in a large crowd or feeling under pressure from work or family life. An estimated 40 percent of Americans suffer from it.
Here are seven superfoods shown to combat anxiety:
Shown above are seven superfoods that experts suggest can help combat anxiety. If you’ve tried cutting out caffeine, exercising and getting eight hours of sleep every night and are still anxious, it may be worth making some tweaks to your diet
Eggs could help to reduce anxiety, some studies suggest
They have had a hard time in recent years, with a series of contradictory studies linking them to high cholesterol.
But eggs are one of the few foods packed full of vitamin D, which the body uses to produce and release serotonin — the ‘feel-good’ hormone.
Previous scientific studies have shown that consuming more vitamin D can help to raise serotonin levels and, as a result, boost someone’s mood.
Papers have also suggested a link between a deficiency of this vitamin and anxiety.
The potential beneficial effects of this vitamin have not, however, been backed up by large-scale studies.
Nonetheless, the fact that eggs are a good source of vitamin D has prompted many experts to suggest eating them could help combat anxiety.
Previous studies have also linked vitamin D to other benefits including weight loss, reduced risk of heart disease and improved immune health.
Adults need about 400 to 800 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day, with one large egg containing about 44IUs of vitamin D, or 10 percent of daily needs.
Estimates suggest one in two Americans are deficient in vitamin D, which is far more prevalent among people in the black ethnic group. Symptoms include fatigue, poor sleep and feelings of depression or sadness.
The superfood blueberries may also help to cut anxiety
A well-known superfood, scientists suggest that the benefits of blueberries may even extend to reducing anxiety.
Blueberries are already known to help reverse cognitive decline, stave off dementia and lower your risk of heart disease.
But the fact they are good sources of vitamin C has led experts to suggest that they could also help to fight off anxiety.
This vitamin can help reduce the amount of cortisol — the stress hormone — released in response to a stressful event, helping to lower feelings of anxiety.
Small-scale studies have suggested a link between eating blueberries and lower levels of anxiety.
In one study from 2020, 64 adolescents were given a daily supplement of blueberries for four weeks. By the end, all were reporting fewer symptoms of depression.
Blueberries are also a good source of antioxidants, which can help to reduce the damage to cells caused by stress.
Health authorities say women should get about 75 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C a day while men should get 90mg. Eating just one cup of blueberries contains about 25 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin C.
Hummus can also help to combat anxiety
There are claims online that eating hummus can help to combat anxiety.
It hinges on the fact that the Middle Eastern dip — made from chickpeas — is a good source of tryptophan.
The body uses this to make melatonin — the sleep hormone and serotonin.
More serotonin can boost someone’s mood helping to combat feelings of anxiety, while studies suggest that melatonin can help someone get a good night’s sleep. This, in turn, may help to lower feelings of anxiety in individuals.
It is suggested that taking melatonin shortly before bed can help someone sleep. Top experts say there is support for this when someone is suffering from jetlag, but little to back its use routinely.
Small-scale studies have suggested getting more tryptophan can lower anxiety, which have been backed up by large scale studies.
In one, 15 adults were exposed to a stressful environment twice — once when they had normal tryptophan levels in their blood and once when they had lower levels.
Researchers found that anxiety, tensions and feelings of nervousness were higher when the participants had lower tryptophan levels, suggesting that the amount in the body may contribute to anxiety levels.
Other benefits of tryptophan include improved memory and learning and getting a better night’s sleep. People who eat a balanced diet should be able to get enough.
Experts suggest people need about 250 to 425 milligrams (mg) of tryptophan a day, but estimates suggest that most individuals are already consuming more than 900mg every day.
Yogurt may be able to help manage the symptoms of anxiety because it contains bacteria that can maintain gut health
Doctors say that ensuring you consume yogurt could help to manage the symptoms of anxiety.
The dairy treats are packed full of good bacteria, which can contribute to building and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome.
This reduces the risk of one of the symptoms of anxiety, an upset stomach, which is caused when stress hormones interfere with the digestive system.
In one study from last year involving 66 postmenopausal women, researchers found that eating probiotic yogurt once a day for six weeks was associated with lower levels of reported anxiety.
The scientists did note, however, that their study had only picked up a correlation — and did not prove that probiotic yogurts could help.
Other papers have suggested these yogurts are of little help because all the good bacteria are killed in the stomach — and never reach the small intestine.
The best types of yogurt for combating anxiety are probiotic yogurts, such as Kefir and Greek yogurt, experts suggest.
Peppermint tea could also help to combat anxiety, experts suggest
Drinking peppermint tea can help a person stay attentive and alert throughout the day and lower their anxiety, experts say.
The teas — made from mint plants — are free of caffeine, which is well-known to hike up anxiety levels.
But they are also a rich source of polyphenols, which experts suggest can help to reduce inflammation and lower anxiety.
There is some evidence for this from small-scale papers.
One study from 2010 involving 109 postmenopausal women found a 76 percent improvement in anxiety scores among those who got polyphenols from taking capsules compared to those who did not.
And in a second paper from 2007 where 200 peri-menopausal women took polyphenols for six months, they also recorded drops in anxiety levels.
The teas also contain menthol, which is known to help relieve stress by stimulating the muscles to relax.
Previous studies have also suggested that polyphenols improve heart health, reduce the risk of diabetes, and can protect against some types of cancer.
Tried salmon? The omega-3 fatty acids in this food can help reduce anxiety
We are always told to eat the Mediterranean diet to ensure we live longer and are less likely to develop dementia.
But experts also suggest that eating salmon — a key spoke of the diet — could help to lower levels of anxiety.
Salmon is a top source of omega-3 fatty acids, which previous studies have suggested can reduce inflammation in the body — lowering anxiety.
Previous large-scale studies have suggested that a diet rich in these fats is associated with lower levels of anxiety.
In one 2020 meta-analysis of 19 clinical trials involving 2,240 people, scientists spotted an improvement in anxiety symptoms when participants consumed more foods containing these acids.
A link was also detected by small-scale papers. In another paper from 2014, men who ate salmon three times a week for five months reported lower anxiety levels than those eating a similar amount of chicken, pork or beef every week.
Other benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids include a lower risk of heart disease or stroke, and reduced symptoms of eczema and some types of arthritis.
The American Heart Association recommends that adults get from 500 to 1,000mg of omega-3 per day. This can easily be obtained by eating a balanced diet.
Dark chocolate may help to relieve anxiety because it prompts feelings of comfort
Munching on some dark chocolate could help lower your anxiety levels, experts suggest.
It contains flavonols — plant compounds that are antioxidants — which work to reduce damage to the body caused by stress.
Some research also suggests that dark chocolate can boost blood flow to the brain, which can enhance alertness and may allow people to adjust better to stressful situations.
There are also suggestions that simply its taste can reduce anxiety because this is linked to comfort.
Previous studies have suggested dark chocolate carries a wealth of benefits, including lowering blood pressure and even improving your sex life.
But there is also a dark side to the treats, with an investigation finding last year that the bars can contain lead.
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