In times of stress, many people reach for food to calm their nerves. But unfortunately, eating the wrong foods — like sugary donuts and cake — may exacerbate anxiety and pack on the pounds, which will really make you miserable. Eating sweets helps us feel temporarily better as the sugar races through the bloodstream. But as insulin removes sugar from the body, we crash, feeling tired and low.
Anxiety affects over 40 million Americans and the head count is climbing from the coronavirus pandemic. While medication is commonly prescribed to deal with anxiety, drugs can have negative side effects and are not meant to be taken long-term.
Here, according to experts, are the six best foods you can eat to soothe shattered nerves:
- Salmon. According to Healthline, fatty fish contains important nutrients for the brain, including vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These fatty acids help regulate dopamine and serotonin, two neurotransmitters that calm and relax the nervous system. Vitamin D has a positive effect on these neurotransmitters.
- Chamomile tea. Swap the cup of coffee for a soothing mug of chamomile tea, says Brianna Elliott, RD, in a piece for Healthline. "It contains high amounts of antioxidants proven to reduce inflammation, which might decrease the risk of anxiety," she said.
- Turmeric. The curcumin in turmeric is a compound that has been shown to boost the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in the blood and produce significant anti-anxiety effects. Curcumin also reduces inflammatory markers such as the protein-based cytokines.
- Dark chocolate. Yes, you can certainly enjoy — but not over-indulge in — dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains flavanols — antioxidants that help brain function and, in several studies, has demonstrated the ability to significantly lower levels of stress, according to Healthline. Limit your intake to one ounce daily.
- Yogurt. By adding probiotics like yogurt to your daily diet, you keep the levels of the "good" bacteria in your gut healthy. Studies have shown that the bacteria in your gut has a strong influence on brain health and the central nervous system.
- Turkey. According to Everyday Health, turkey and other tryptophan-rich foods like chicken, bananas, milk, cheese, and nuts can have a positive effect on stress. "Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which helps you feel clam," said Manuel Villacorta, RD, a nutritionist from San Francisco and a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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