We’ve heard it time and time again that sleep is so important for our wellbeing. On average, a person between the ages of 26-64 needs seven to nine hours every night. While that is easier said than done for most people, anxiety and stress should not be factors preventing you from getting that much needed and deserved shut eye. Anxiety disorders will affect an estimated 31 percent of adults in their lifetime, so it is not unlikely that you find yourself tossing and turning and not getting the adequate amount of rest needed because you can’t quiet your mind and the thoughts keep racing.
Of course, working out and meditating can help keep your worries at bay, but the foods we eat can also have a significant impact on our mental health. By incorporating the following into your diet, it can largely and positively change your mood for the better as well as improve brain function and gut health. Keep reading to learn exactly how these accessible foods at your grocery store can be beneficial in helping you calm your nerves and relax.
Though it may be more bitter than sweet, dark chocolate has the capability of reducing depressive symptoms in those who eat it daily. It is also able to increase serotonin and tryptophan levels in our bodies, which in turn leads to improved mental health.
New studies have shown that our mental health and anxiety symptoms can be correlated with our gut health, so eating foods with probiotics (good bacteria) such as miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kefit and kimchi can nurture the gut-brain connection and reduce anxiety levels.
A cherry on top of anything is always welcome, and with its rich amount of quercetin, that rings even truer. This antioxidant helps a person feel calm. Studies have noted in the past that eating five or more servings a day can be a mood booster.
Aside from the calming nature of sipping a hot cup of tea, chamomile has antibacterial, antioxidant and relaxant properties that assist the body in decreasing anxiety. The flavonoids found in chamomile can also help those with mood disorders.
If Chamomile isn’t your preference, green tea also has numerous benefits. First, the L-theanine found in it is an amino acid that can improve your mood. The calming effect also can increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain which aids overall relaxation in the body. Research has shown that L-theanine reduces the heart rate when taken during an anxiety-ridden episode and can help lower cortisol levels caused by anxiety.
Omega-3 rich foods
Salmon, mackerel, sardines and shellfish are all rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which is great for overall physical health and improving the brain’s cognitive function. By incorporating these foods into your diet, you also decrease mood disorders.
This versatile fruit is packed with nutrients including vitamin B6 and magnesium. Both help to produce serotonin in your brain, which in turn regulates anxiety and increases levels of happiness. They also have a substantial amount of Omega-3.
Almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts and so many more have healthy fats that are easily able to be digested. Eating a daily consumption also has benefits for overall brain growth and memory retention as well as the ability to reduce depressive thoughts.
Plain Greek yogurt has probiotics and can help with symptoms of stress and anxiety. The “healthy bacteria” assists the body in repairing damaged nerve tissue which is important to reduce those anxious feelings.
Add this spice to your cuisine to get the benefits of its active ingredient curcumin, which is key to reducing inflammation in the brain as well as oxidative stress. Curcumin is known to decrease anxiety while increasing blood antioxidant levels and preventing brain cell damage.
Oats, barley and bran have prebiotics, which are necessary in the body so probiotics can thrive. Incorporating more whole grains in your diet can help serotonin receptors in your GI tract work better and also reduce risk of chronic disease.
This long-stemmed vegetable has a large amount of folate, which is important to have in the body to combat anxiety and depression. Asparagus is also loaded with potassium, fiber, vitamins A, C, E and K and has chromium –the trace element needed for healthy skin, bone, muscle, hair and blood.
It doesn’t need to be Thanksgiving to enjoy a turkey dinner. We all know that after that holiday meal, most find themselves taking a snooze, and it’s not from overeating. Turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid that increases serotonin levels that enhances sleep and helps with mood relaxation within the body.
How many times have you heard or said, ‘Eat your greens’? Kale, arugula, spinach and Swiss chard, to name a few, have been proven to reduce stress levels with their beta-carotene, vitamin C and magnesium. All of these elements give the body antioxidants to support the brain and assist in lowering anxiety levels.
Milk does a body good and a mind even better. Drinking a glass of milk at night doesn’t only help children, its minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium impact a person’s anxiety and stress level. Magnesium has a calming affect that can reduce insomnia.
Alisandra Puliti is an NYC-based entertainment journalist with 15 years of experience. The Penn State University graduate has worked in the celebrity weekly world and most recently launched and grew the US entities for HELLO! + HOLA! Media. Throughout her tenure, she has attended red carpet events such as the Golden Globes, covered the backstage action at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and interviewed Hollywood’s A-list and royalty. (Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Lopez being among her favorites!) She has also learned the tips and tricks of the stars’ skincare regimens along the way. As for herself, she swears by Goldfaden’s Doctor’s Scrub and Pure Start cleanser. Follow her travels and outings on Instagram and Twitter @apuliti.