The feeling of anxiety has already become a common condition to the extent that a huge percentage of the population are experiencing it as a chronic ‘disease’. The word may sound a bit strong, but indeed, with the heightened amount of stress in today’s hectic living environment, our nervous system becomes strained to the point where we feel constant tension, start having unexplainable fears, and suddenly we find that the anxiousness prevails in our everyday life.
There are a lot of lifestyle changes we can make to improve this, but undeniably, our food choices are of uppermost importance as well. According to a recent study conducted at the University of Melbourne in Australia, women who consumed a diet of of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and high-quality proteins were 30 percent less likely to suffer from major depression, dysthymia (chronic depression) and other anxiety disorders, compared to those who ate a Western diet consisting of processed foods high in refined sugars and saturated fats. The study also found a 50 percent increased likelihood of depression in those consuming a Western diet.
Similar findings were reported in a study of 5,000 middle aged office workers in Great Britain. Those on a Mediterranean-style diet, which emphasizes fruits and vegetables, nuts, cereals and legumes, while limiting meat and dairy products reported less depression than their junk food-consuming coworkers. In addition, they had lower rates of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
So, here are 10 Truly Powerful Plant Foods that will help you deal with anxiety, and if you are looking for nutrient-rich recipes that will improve your mental and physical health, without compromising on taste, then The Complete Vegan Recipe Solution is for you!
Eating potassium-rich foods such, as pumpkin seeds or bananas, may help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of the mineral zinc. One study carried out on 100 female high school students found that zinc deficiency may negatively affect mood.
Zinc is essential for brain and nerve development. The largest storage sites of zinc in the body are in the brain regions involved with emotions.
Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Indian and South-East Asian cooking. The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. Curcumin may help lower anxiety by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress that often increase in people experiencing mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression. A 2015 study found that curcumin reduced anxiety in obese adults.
Another study found that an increase of curcumin in the diet also increased DHA and reduced anxiety. Turmeric is easy to add to meals. It has minimal flavor, so goes well in smoothies, curries, and casserole dishes.
Many studies going back to the 1960s indicate that many people who suffer from anxiety and depression have an elevated incident of folate deficiency. Asparagus is one vegetable that contains a valuable amount of this mood- boosting nutrient. One cup alone provides two-thirds of your daily recommended folate value.
Food Swap: Asparagus Spears Instead of Fries
Ditch the French Fries and sauté, steam, or grill some asparagus to serve as a side dish. If you tend to snack on fries, consider this substitute: dip cooked asparagus into salsa, hummus, or a bean dip.
5. Kale (or Arugula)
Researchers7 at the State University of New York found that anxious symptoms are linked with a lower antioxidant state and that antioxidants can help with mood, too. Dark, leafy greens like kale, which is rich in beta- arotene and vitamin E, are needed to boost antioxidant levels and support optimal brain functioning.
Food Swap: Kale Instead of Iceberg Lettuce
If you already eat salad or add lettuce to your sandwiches, replace it with kale. To reap the benefits without the bitter taste some find displeasing, add it to an omelet, soup or smoothie.
Vitamin B6 helps the body make several neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which influences mood. “The B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, have positive effects on the nervous system. Deficiencies of these vitamins have been linked to increased anxiety in some people,” explains Godfrey. Avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins and heart-healthy fat that may help to lessen anxiety.
Food Swap: Non-Dairy Frozen Avocado Treat Instead of Ice Cream
Avocado ice cream? Yes, you heard that right. Next time you’re reaching for that pint of full-fat, calorie-laden ice-cream, whip up your own frozen avocado treat. Just blend avocado with a ripe banana, vanilla extract, almond milk, and sweetener. Freeze for a few hours and then dig in, knowing you’re boosting those B vitamins as you go!
Researchers3 have shown that magnesium may be an effective treatment for anxiety-related symptoms, as inadequate magnesium reduces the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Just 1 ounce of almonds (that’s about 12 nuts) contains 75mg of magnesium which is 19% of your daily recommended value. You can also find magnesium in foods such as legumes, seeds, and—everyone’s favorite—avocado.
Food Swap: Almonds Instead of Cookies
Consuming artery-clogging trans fats, like those found in cookies, can increase your risk of depression by as much as 48%, according to one study.4 “Snack on nuts rather than cookies to ensure you are getting healthy fats and fiber that promote gut health, rather than the sugar that interrupts good bacteria,” says Godfrey. Next time you need a crunch, reach for a handful of almonds instead of reaching for cookies. If you are in dire need of a sweet, throw in a few dark chocolate chips with the almonds.
When we’re anxious and stressed, our bodies crave vitamin C to help repair and protect our cells, and blueberries are packed full of it. Small but mighty, blueberries are bursting with antioxidants and vitamin C which have been shown to provide anxiety relief. One study1 examined the effects of oral vitamin C supplements on anxiety in a group of students and found that antioxidants may be useful for both the prevention and reduction of anxiety.
Food Swap: Blueberries Instead of Sugary Sweets
Reaching for sugar when hunger strikes causes the brain to work at sub- optimal level and puts you at greater risk for depressive symptoms associated with anxiety. “The sweetness from blueberries is a better option acting as a positive immune booster; added sugars throw off the healthy bacterial balance in the gut that may increase anxiety,” Godfrey says.
9. High Quality Vegetable Protein
The amino acid tyrosine may boost levels of dopamine in the brain, helping you to concentrate and feel more alert. Good sources of tyrosine for vegetarians and vegans include soy products such as tofu and tempeh as well as peas and beans. Food for thought.
10. Kidney Beans
Are high in tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin and has a calming effect. Several studies have linked low dietary tryptophan with increased anxiety and stress, and consuming more dietary tryptophan has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression. Soybeans, poultry, eggs, cheese, and pumpkin seeds are also good sources of tryptophan.
Try this: Purée kidney beans with chopped onion, minced garlic, olive oil, and cumin for an easy dip or spread; chop kidney beans, red bell pepper, scallions, parsley, flaxseed, and cooked rice in a food processor, form into patties, and grill or fry; simmer kidney beans, yellow onions, and tomatoes in coconut milk spiced with turmeric and cayenne for a traditional African dish.
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