A Better Kind of Comfort Food for Anxiety and Stress

July 12, 2022 2:38 pm Published by

If you’re dealing with anxiety or stress, you definitely aren’t alone. Americans are more anxious today than they’ve ever been. But what if we told you that there are certain foods for anxiety that can help you cope?

It’s true! While we often turn to comfort foods when we’re feeling stressed or anxious, like fast food or treats heavy in fat, sodium and/or sugar, there are actually foods you can eat that will benefit your mental health.

Anxiety’s Effect on Your Overall Health

Most people have experienced stress and anxiety at one time or another. In fact, 40 million American adults have some type of anxiety disorder, a number that grew during the pandemic. But even if you haven’t been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’ve probably felt anxious, that familiar feeling of dread or fear.

You might think that anxiety and stress are only mental health conditions. But these conditions actually affect your entire body, including your physical health. When you’re feeling anxious or stressed, your heart may beat faster, you may feel sore or achy, you may have digestive issues, and you may find it harder to breathe.

How Your Diet Can Help Reduce Anxiety

Have you ever heard of “stress hormones”? When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, your body releases specific hormones, including cortisol. Stress hormones trigger your body’s fight-or-flight mechanism, preparing you to fend off a threat.

These hormones were especially helpful in different eras of history, when you might need to fight or flee a physical battle. But in today’s world, where stress is most often triggered by nonphysical issues, such as work pressure, relationship struggles or rising costs at the grocery store, the hormones simply cause the body to be on high alert.

That isn’t necessarily a good thing, and it’s the cause of many symptoms related to anxiety and stress. The good news is that certain foods can help lower the amount of these stress hormones in your body, which will, in turn, help you cope.

Foods to Add to Your Grocery List

The next time you’re feeling stressed, instead of turning to foods that are good for your taste buds but not so good for your health, look for true comfort foods.

Many foods have calming effects or can help you reduce or manage anxiety in the long term. Add these foods to your refrigerator or pantry:

  • Fatty fish. Choose fish like salmon or tuna that is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are good for your heart and your brain, but have also been shown to help reduce anxiety symptoms.
  • Fruits and veggies. In particular, look for produce that’s high in vitamins A, C or E, which are beneficial for your mental health. This includes vegetables like asparagus, sweet potatoes, broccoli and leafy greens, and fruits like strawberries, oranges and cantaloupe.
  • Dark chocolate. Yes, eat chocolate! Dark chocolate contains magnesium, which can help reduce stress and help you cope with anxiety. Bananas, avocados and almonds are also high in magnesium.
  • Lean proteins. If you’ve ever felt hangry, you’ll understand how eating a meal or snack containing protein can help calm you. When your blood sugar levels get out of whack, it can worsen anxiety and stress. Lean protein like skinless chicken or turkey can help keep you balanced.
  • Probiotic-filled foods. Believe it or not, keeping your gut balanced can benefit your mental health. Turn to foods like Greek yogurt, kefir or sauerkraut for a healthy dose of gut boosters.

 

When you’re mentally healthy, your physical health benefits, too. Find ways to relieve stress to boost your overall health.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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