Dr Felecia Sumner
Eat Your Way to Less Stress & Less Anxiety With Good Food
If anyone hasn’t mentioned it yet, 2020 may go down as one of the most stressful years ever. We have already been dealing with the serious risks, dangers and changes due to the COVID19 pandemic. Many individuals are now dealing with the much-needed, yet added stress related to actively addressing systemic racism in our country. As we hope for a better future, it’s also important not to lose sight of maintaining one’s personal health.
Stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, are rapidly reaching epidemic proportions. The sedentary lifestyle due to quarantine will unfortunately only worsen these numbers.
When stressful situations get a bit too much for us to handle, we can bd tempted to “throw in the towel“ and find something decadent, but comforting, to eat. Fries and sweet deserts may probably be our first choice, but filling up on these foods will more than likely leave us feeling more anxious than ever.
Depending on the severity of the stress, which in some cases will definitely need medical intervention and possible medication, research has shown that anxiety and stress can be controlled with food...
Not just any food!
Studies have shown that there are certain foods which have been proved to reduce stress levels. Most of the foods do not take hours to prepare, and for busy folk, will be quick-to-make snacks or meals.
Here are some of the most common foods to use when anxious:
• Asparagus is high in folic acid which is a mood-enhancer of note, and a perfect snack to keep on hand for tense situations.
• Oranges are rich in vitamin C which is known to reduce blood pressure and return the stress hormone (cortisol), which causes you to crave bad foods, to normal levels.
• Dark chocolate may help if you are craving something sweet. Research has shown that a 40 gram chocolate per day can help cope with stress. It releases endorphins in the brain, a substance which has a relaxing effect on the body. Keep in mind that in order to best reap the antioxidant benefits, it should be at least 80% dark cacao.
• Berries are more than just a delicious fruit. Blueberries and strawberries, in particular, are considered by some nutritionists to be a superfood. Berries are loaded with phytochemicals (plant nutrients) folic acid, vitamins B and D, and omega 3. Research has clearly shown that berries will help you to cope with the trials and anxieties of daily life.
• Mixed nuts such as pistachios, walnuts and almonds, have been proved to be true, potent mood boosters. Almonds are sometimes underrated as they contain an impressive amount of zinc, which is an important mineral for maintaining a balanced mood. Other nuts, including almonds, also have good amounts of selenium, a mineral which studies have revealed to be effective in reducing anxiety, and helping to elevate the mood.
All the above foods, as well as others like avocados, and dark green veggies such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce, are beneficial for helping you cope with anxiety. They contain vitamins and minerals that are known to calm the mind and body. At the same time, your energy levels get a boost, motivating you to get some exercise, which will also stabilizeyour mood.
Here are foods that should be avoided when you are stressed:
Just as important as it is to eat the right foods to help ease anxiety, it is even more important to make sure you do not eat food that will aggravate your stress.
Here are some critical foods to stay away from --
• All refined foods like cakes, pasta, rolls, cookies, and bread. These foods do not have any fiber to slow down the digestion of all the flour and sugar. Glucose levels go through the roof and spike the release of cortisol, which makes you crave even more of the same bad stuff...
• Don’t go for a so-called healthy granola bar. It is just a sugar-rich candy bar with a few seeds added. Unless the ingredients are raw without sugars added, avoid these . Try your best to avoid other sweets as well.
• Skip the ice cream, which is the universally favorite comfort food of the masses. The high sugar content will raise the cortisol levels, and lead to raised anxiety and more stress.
• Avoid fried foods as much as possible, as even the ever-popular French fry is a big no-no! This comfort food is little more than unhealthy saturated fats, and greasy carbs.
Finally, something to remember...
Overcoming anxiety without medication, or even with reduced medication, involves making permanent lifestyle changes, especially when it comes to your diet, and getting some exercise.
Healthy eating and exercise are one of the best ways to control stress. Always make sure that you drink enough water, as studies have found that many folks who have persistent stress, are also somewhat dehydrated, which is known to cause more anxiety.
If you are taking medication for stress, do not stop taking it, or even reducing medication, without discussing it with your doctor.
At Synergize Direct Direct Primary Care, we aim to control stress/anxiety in our patients without medications as much as possible. This not only requires implementing healthy lifestyle changes and addressing obvious sources of stress, but also searching for other root causes - such as low magnesium, vitamin B12 or poor adrenal function. If you haven’t made time to speak with your doctor about managing stress, there’s no better time than now.