Every day we are exposed to physical and mental stress that can lead to anxiety, agitation and insomnia. Fortunately, there are foods that can help us fight it.
Stress is a psychophysical condition capable of favoring the body’s adaptation to the numerous stimuli, both physical and mental, which it receives every day and it is not always a negative condition.
It can be positive when, for example, it helps concentration in anticipation of an exam, gives useful energy to face a sports competition or a new job. In these cases it is referred to as positive stress or eustress.
Instead, it becomes negative when the stressful condition lasts over time and you don’t have the ability to deal with the situation that caused it. In these cases we speak of negative stress or distress that causes excessive overload with damage to cells and tissues.
A healthy diet can help us fight stress, in fact, there are foods that have a positive effect on mood by improving anxiety, insomnia and memory. These foods are rich in some molecules that are able to have a psychoactive action, acting directly or indirectly on the nervous system.
Because food can affect stress and mood
Reporting what was stated by the higher health institute, stress is the psychological and physiological response that the body puts in place towards tasks, difficulties or life events. The feeling you get in a stressful situation is that you are facing a strong mental and emotional pressure.
Foods can act on stress and mood because they contain molecules capable of influencing the production of some neurotransmitters, or messengers, which send signals to the brain that can improve emotional state, anxiety and insomnia. In particular, the bioactive molecules present in food act above all on the production of:
- Serotonin, also known as the good mood hormone;
- Dopamine, associated with pleasure and the reward mechanism;
- Melatonin, the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle;
- Endorphins, which are able to determine a feeling of well-being;
- Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”.
Specifically, the molecules that we find in foods and that help fight stress are: tryptophan, omega-3s , B vitamins, vitamin C and numerous mineral salts.
Anti-stress diet: 15 foods against stress and anxiety
Stress is a condition that can not always be prevented, however there are several precautions that can be followed to try to manage it more effectively, among these, a healthy diet can help us regain a good mood. Here are 15 foods to be included in an anti- stress diet.
1. Dark chocolate: the ally of good humor
Dark chocolate has a high content of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that our body is unable to synthesize, but which must be taken through food. Dark chocolate is able to improve mood by stimulating, through tryptophan, the production of serotonin, the good mood hormone. Other foods rich in tryptophan are peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts and pistachios.
2. Pork – cheer up
Pork is among the foods richest in thiamin or vitamin B1 known to provide energy and to support the well-being of the nervous system. It is a very useful vitamin in case of stress since its intake strengthens the ability of attention and learning. Other foods rich in thiamin are legumes, brown rice and eggs.
3. Pistachios: promote relaxation
Pistachios are rich in vitamin B6, a water-soluble vitamin which, in addition to intervening in the metabolism of nutrients, appears to be effective in improving the synthesis of melatonin, a hormone produced by the body, which plays an essential role in the physiology of sleep and in regulating the cycle. sleep-wake. Other food categories that provide vitamin B6 are meat, fish, whole grains, eggs, milk and cheese.
4. Clams: to prevent memory disorders
Clams are among the foods richest in vitamin B12 or cobalamin, an important vitamin for preventing age-induced memory impairments, if taken before these occur. Furthermore, cobalamin is especially important in the case of stress associated with depression. Its effect is enhanced when taken together with the other vitamins of the B group, for this reason we find it almost always associated with the other vitamins of this group in supplements. Other foods rich in vitamin B12 are beef, chicken, herring, salmon, eggs, milk and its derivatives.
5. Spinach: they improve the mood
Spinach is one of the richest vegetables in folic acid and its intake can improve mood problems, anxiety and depression. This vitamin is also useful in reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, two conditions associated with the decline of cognitive and motor skills. Broccoli, asparagus, strawberries and kiwis are also a source of folic acid.
6. Salmon: anxiety is fought at the table
Salmon is characterized by the good content of omega-3 fatty acids commonly defined as “good fats”, for their supposed beneficial properties, many of which have been confirmed by scientific studies that highlight their anti-inflammatory activity. Salmon appears to improve mood in patients suffering from depression and pathological anxiety thanks to its omega-3 intake. Sardines, flax seeds and tuna are also foods rich in omega-3s.
7. Mackerel: for a relaxing effect
Mackerel is one of the best known blue fish, it is distinguished by the high content of vitamin D, a vitamin increasingly studied for its numerous beneficial properties. This vitamin is able to reduce the secretion of cortisol (the stress hormone) resulting in a relaxing effect. Remember that vitamin D is also present in eggs and cheeses and is synthesized by our body also through exposure to the sun.
8. Yogurt: mood stabilizer
Yogurt is a food known for its supply of lactic ferments which favor the increase of good intestinal bacterial flora thus improving intestinal functions. As we know, brain and gut health are closely related, in fact, research has shown that probiotics in yogurt work by stabilizing mood and reducing anxiety, depression and stress.
9. Banana: promotes good sleep
Banana is one of the foods that promote good sleep, the secret is its content of melatonin, a molecule that plays an important role in positively regulating the sleep-wake rhythm. Eating a banana in the evening, for example, can help you sleep better. Other foods that contain melatonin are apples, cherries, oranges and walnuts.
10. Peppers: more vitamin C, less anxiety
Peppers are among the foods richest in vitamin C, in fact, if eaten raw, a single portion is able to satisfy the daily requirement. Vitamin C is important because it converts dopamine into serotonin and as a result you feel more relaxed, focused and tension-free. Recall that kiwi, rocket, clementine and strawberries are other foods that provide vitamin C.
11. Turkey: fights fatigue
Iron deficiency is one of the most underestimated ailments but it is one of the main causes of fatigue, irritability and poor concentration . Turkey meat is one of the foods to be included in a healthy and balanced diet as it provides a good amount of easily assimilated iron. Remember that iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, or the molecule that carries oxygen to all cells. Other iron-rich foods are offal, egg yolk and mushrooms.
12. Tuna: against seasonal depression
Yellowfin tuna is one of the foods richest in selenium, a mineral that modulates the transmission of nerve impulses and has antioxidant properties. In particular, an adequate daily intake of selenium is recommended to improve mood and combat “seasonal depression”. Brazil nuts, sardines, ham, shrimp and beef are also a source of selenium.
13. Almonds: for increased serotonin production
It is well known that almonds are among the friendly foods of our health, but perhaps you did not know that they are very rich in magnesium. Magnesium plays a fundamental role in the production of serotonin, the good mood hormone that supports good sleep quality, the rebalancing of mood and the strengthening of brain functions.
14. Cashews: to fill up on zinc
Cashews are an excellent source of zinc, an essential mineral especially when we are stressed as it has a double effect: it counteracts oxidative stress preventing premature aging and acts as a transmitter at the level of the nervous system by improving memory. Lamb, sardines, octopus and aged cheeses are also rich in zinc.
15. Wholemeal flour: regulates the mood
Wholemeal flour is among the few foods that have a good chromium content. Chromium is a mineral that is found in very small quantities in food but which plays an important role in regulating the mood. In fact, chromium acts on the production of serotonin and melatonin, regulating emotions and mood.
Foods to avoid to fight anxiety and stress: what they are
To combat anxiety and stress it is important to prefer anti- stress foods but also to know which foods to avoid or, at least, try to reduce, because they can promote stress by increasing anxiety and insomnia. The food categories to avoid or reduce to combat stress are:
- Coffee: This much-loved drink contains caffeine, an exciting substance that stimulates the nervous system and increases blood pressure. Therefore, coffee can worsen states of anxiety;
- Alcohol: even if we are often led to believe that alcohol favors falling asleep, in reality alcohol has exactly the opposite effect, that is, it can favor an increase in heartbeats that affect the quality of sleep;
- Sweets: due to their high sugar content, sweets (especially industrial ones) promote stress. In fact, when you consume too much sugar, it increases the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can promote anxiety and nervousness.