As the last waves of summer crash down on us, our light and carefree mindsets usually go as well. With the slow haze of summer gone, the quick pace of daily life picks up once again which can incite feelings of anxiety. Besides too much caffeine (go ahead, put down that third cup of coffee already), anxiety can be caused by trauma, medications, certain medical conditions, brain chemistry, and nutritional deficiencies. Yep, you read that right– what you eat and how you digest it can greatly contribute to daily feelings of anxiety.
Specifically, depleted levels of minerals, such as magnesium and zinc, have been linked to the presence of anxiety. This is because these minerals play an important role in the aforementioned status of brain chemistry and other reactions in the body. Additionally B vitamins, in particular vitamin B 12, can affect anxiety levels. Other than helping you keep chill and easy-going, magnesium and zinc also help balance blood sugar, stabilize metabolic rate, strengthen immune system responses, and support optimal sense of smell and taste. Meanwhile, vitamin B 12 supports the production of red blood cells, prevention anemia, allows nerve cells to develop properly, and help cells metabolize protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Thus, maintaining satisfactory vitamin and mineral intake is crucial. In fact, 80% of Americans do not achieve their RDA for magnesium! It’s important to regulate your daily diet and understand how to fulfill RDA‘s for optimal health.
However, it’s not as hard as it sounds and should essentially be easily accomplished if you have no imposing health issues/complications. The golden rule: eat a well-balanced, plant-based diet! Even more exciting, within this wonderful well-balanced and plant-based diet, there are certain foods that help combat anxiety directly.
1. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are tasty little treats that have a claim to fame around Autumn. These little guys are a great addition to trail mixes, sprinkled onto oatmeal, baked into muffins like the recipe pictured above, and are delicious roasted and eaten by themselves. They also happen to give you your 48% Daily Value of magnesium and your 17% Daily Value of zinc! Anxious? Grab a handful or start your morning with this comforting muffin, and try to go easy on the coffee.
Unfortunately, many of us turn to caffeine to help give us that jump start in the morning whether it be coffee, tea, or even worse, energy drinks. Too much caffeine is a stimulant for anxiety and can create sensations that cause panic attacks. Not to mention, coffee can actually deplete the body of magnesium, worsening those sensations. To achieve that burst of energy each morning, try fresh fruit instead. Fruit has natural sugars and is easily converted to energy while providing necessary nutrients. Substitute the coffee pot for the blender and try a smoothie for energy instead!
You probably have heard all the raving over oats with their high fiber content and cholesterol-lowering benefits but, did you know that you can also reap 16% of your Daily Value of zinc from one serving of oats? Even better, oats are a good source of the amino acid call tryptophan. Tryptophan has a natural relaxation component and may increase the metabolism as an added bonus. There’s nothing nicer than waking up to a warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning.
Spinach is chock full of B vitamins and measures up to be a whopping 39% of you Daily Value for magnesium and it has a little zinc as well! Remember, zinc is a micro-mineral so it’s significant for maintaining a healthy diet but that doesn’t mean you have to go overboard. As long as you include foods with a little zinc on a daily basis, you’ll be set (I’m talking 50 mg or less).
PS: it’s also a great addition to any upcoming football parties.
5. Nutritional Yeast
Last but not least is the plant-powered eater’s favorite cheesy substitute, nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B 12 making it one of the only sources of B 12 from food. Make sure you’re taking a supplement too to be safe! This product is great to sprinkle onto meals but can also be used to concoct its own creations so check out this article for ideas and savory recipes!
Fact of the day: did you know that vitamin B 12 is light sensitive? To ensure that your B 12 stays active so you actually can benefit from nutritional yeast, store it in the fridge.
Adding the listed foods is a great start to managing anxiety but there also some things you can do to further prevent potential anxiety attacks.
- burn off excess energy with fitness
- stay away from processed and fried foods (something you should be doing for your health anyway!)– they are difficult to digest and have little nutritional content
- limit alcohol intake; it may seem to have a calming effect but this is short term and leaves the body dehydrated, leaving you more anxious
- drink enough water
- keep an eye out for research on the association between omega-3 fatty acids and depression and anxiety
The following herbs also help to calm the spirit and to relieve anxiety:
Article Courtesy of One Green Planet, found here