Anxiety and depression are unfortunately on the rise, not only in adults but in children and teens as well.
Scientists are beginning to recognize how important the correlation of food and brain function is.
Certain medications may help keep anxiety under control — yet many people may want to find more natural ways to deal with it.
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As a health counselor, there are many foods I like to incorporate into my diet, as well as lifestyle habits I embrace, that can help balance mood while keeping worries at bay.
Here are six important things to keep in mind when looking to reduce anxiety levels:
1.) Load up on antioxidants. These days “antioxidants” seems to be the buzzword, with claims these foods can help everything from inflammation to skin appearance to anxiety.
Yes, antioxidants are a wonderful way to improve health, and luckily are found in an assortment of healthy foods that most people have in their homes. I am sure to always include in my meals foods that are rich in beta carotene, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, citrus fruits, red pepper, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocados, and nuts. All of these help maximize and support brain function, which keeps me going throughout the busy workday.
2.) Drink purified water. Simple, clean water is essential to a healthy body, mind and soul. Although the direct correlation between drinking water and anxiety levels has never been proven, studies have shown that even mild dehydration can cause a problematic mood swing.
Did you know that by the time you are feeling thirsty, it’s already technically too late? Your mind and body start to experience a change in performance leading to unsettling feelings. Staying hydrated throughout the day is easy. To manage my hydration, I always keep a pitcher of fresh lemon water on my desk.
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3.) Eat foods rich in magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that helps to relax the central nervous system and calm the body. Diets low in magnesium have been seen to cause anxious behavior. Nuts, such as Setton Farms premium quality California-grown pistachios, contain a sufficient amount of magnesium in a half-cup serving.
Pistachios are a great snack to keep on hand and easy to transport. When I am feeling stressed or anxious during the day, I like to toss them on my salad or yogurt to make a nutritious meal.
Other natural sources of magnesium to include in a diet are dark leafy greens, eggs, legumes, and avocados.
I like to work out in the morning so that I feel the endorphins for the rest of the day.
4.) Exercise daily. It’s almost impossible to feel anxious or stressed after you work out. Countless studies have proven that our bodies release chemicals called endorphins that naturally trigger a positive feeling in the body. I like to work out in the morning to feel the endorphins for the rest of the day.
Exercise not only lifts your mood but also strengthens muscles and bones, and helps with circulation and heart health.
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5.) Eat small meals throughout the day. I find it’s essential to eat small meals every two to three hours for a 12-hour period during the day. Doing this will help keep blood sugar levels steady and maintain energy.
Eating smaller, frequent meals throughout the day prevents me from getting to the point of starvation — which can have a negative effect on those prone to anxiety.
6.) Include a variety of foods in my meals. I’m careful of fad diets that eliminate certain food groups. Evidence has shown that a diet lacking in complex carbohydrates can be detrimental to anxious people.
Complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, quinoa, peas, lentils, brown rice and sweet potatoes (to name a few) are an important part of a balanced diet. Including a wide variety of foods, my diet ensures I am getting the proper nutrients to calm my mind.
Sara Siskind, a certified nutritional health counselor, is founder of Hands On Healthy — cooking classes for adults, families and teens based in New York. She has dedicated her career to educating clients on how food and lifestyle choices affect health.