foods that help anxiety

Best Foods to Fight Anxiety for Stressed Mamas

foods that help with anxiety

Best foods that help with anxiety

When you’re feeling like a stressed out mommy, reach for these healthy foods that help with anxiety and mental health

Motherhood comes with a unique set of challenges. Each day as mothers we are physically and mentally pulled in multiple directions. Our patience is tested, our emotional equilibrium is sometimes stretched to the point of exhaustion, and we’re often left with feelings of anxiety and burnout.

It’s well known that what we eat has profound effects not only on our physical well-being but our mental and emotional health as well. Our first line of defense against anxiety and even depression should come from our diets.

While we cannot remove the demands of motherhood altogether, we can support our ability to weather it by choosing healthy foods that help our bodies cope with the anxiety we may feel!

Besides resulting from the stress of being a mother, anxiety and depression can be caused (or exacerbated) by hormone imbalance, underactive thyroid, low blood sugar, allergies, toxicity, lack of sleep, and nutrient deficiency. Maintaining a healthy diet will almost always have a positive effect on all of these issues.

foods that help with anxiety

From personal experience, on my most stressed out of my mind days, my inclination is often to reach for something high in carbs or sugar. But doing so only worsens my stress levels. I can literally feel myself becoming crankier after eating a sugary granola bar or specialty coffee drink. (You know what I’m talking about mamas!) It’s like the Hulk takes over my personality #notpretty

Instead, I like to reach for these healthy foods that help with anxiety. (Plus, there are 3 types of foods I avoid like the plague!)

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7 types of healthy foods that help with anxiety

For decades, researchers have known that inflammation can lead to mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. The good news is inflammation can be reversed through an anti-inflammatory diet.

The first place to start controlling inflammation is in the gut which houses 70% of our immune system response. The gut actively creates serotonin and dopamine, two powerful neurotransmitters that affect our moods.

When our gut is healthy, it can raise these chemical levels and lead to mood stabilization. Our gut microbiome can be negatively impacted by gluten, herbicides, stress, infection and other toxins.

foods that help with anxiety and gut health

Foods that are good for the gut

Fermented foods are particularly helpful in healing and sealing our gut lining as well as promoting beneficial bacteria.

  • Saurkraut
  • Kombucha
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Sourdough bread
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Natto
  • Tempeh
  • Raw cheese

Need a library of healthy meal plans and recipes at your fingertips? Check out Food Matters TV! I’ve personally used FMTV for the past 2 years and absolutely LOVE it. Their collection of recipes, workouts, wellness plans, documentaries, movies, and ebooks make healthy living so much easier!

foods that help anxiety

Flavonoid rich foods

Flavonoids act much like valium in their ability to enhance our brain’s neurotransmitters such as GABA. Flavonoids can cross the blood-brain barrier and bind to certain brain receptors, helping to stabilize our moods.

Foods high in flavanoids include:

  • Cacao beans (8606mg/100g)
  • Elderberries, juice or raw (518-520mg/100g)
  • Raspberries, raw (324mg/100g)
  • Cocoa, dry & unsweetened (261mg/100g)
  • Parsley, fresh (233mg/100g)
  • Radicchio, raw (204mg/100g)
  • Blackberries, raw (138mg/100g)
  • Blueberries, raw (133mg/100g)
  • Green tea (120mg/100g)
  • Cranberries, raw (99mg/100g)
  • Kale, raw (99mg/100g)
  • Currants, raw or juice (78-79mg/100g)
  • Grapes, concord, raw (73mg/100g)
  • Arugula, raw (69mg/100g)
  • Acai berries, frozen (62mg/100g)

Foods high in tryptophan (to boost serotonin levels)

Serotonin is a chemical messenger that has an effect on mood and sleeping patterns. This chemical is not found in foods but is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan. Research shows that when the body is low on tryptophan, serotonin levels drop.

Foods high in protein, iron, riboflavin and vitamin B6 are high in tryptophan.

  • Eggs – with the yolks, which contain tryptophan as well as omega-3’s
  • Pineapples
  • Salmon – an excellent source of omega-3’s, salmon also helps balance cholesterol and lower blood pressure
  • Nuts & seeds – also contain fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants
  • Turkey – be sure to get nitrate-free turkey

Combining tryptophan-rich foods with other carbs may also be helpful in giving serotonin levels a boost. When you eat carbs, the body produces more insulin which promotes amino acid absorption.

foods that help anxiety

Foods high in healthy fats

Our brain cells are made up of mostly fat! Each mitochondrion inside the cell is encased in tiny droplets of fat. Omega-3’s contain EPA and DHA which regulate the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Fatty acids also reduce cellular inflammation.

We NEED healthy fats to maintain optimal brain function (ie stable moods and clear thinking ability). Go “low-fat” and your brain will suffer!

  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Flax seeds or oil
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Grass-fed meat
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Cod liver oil
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Avocado

Foods high in essential vitamins

Having adequate levels of vitamins such as B3, B6, B12, C, D, E and folate (B9) are essential to a healthy mind and body. The following foods are both high in each of these vitamins and are foods that can greatly help with anxiety.

Vitamin D

This vitamin, in particular, can help ease depression. Sunshine is an excellent source of vitamin D but we may become low during the winter months. Including these foods can help raise our levels.

  • Eggs
  • Salmon – wild caught has higher levels of vitamin D
  • Cod liver oil – a good alternative supplement if you don’t care for fish
  • Tuna
  • Shrimp
  • Mushrooms – the only plant-based source of vitamin D

foods that help anxiety

Vitamin B3

Niacin B3 has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and reduce anxiety and depression.

  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Tomatoes
  • Dates
  • Mushrooms
  • Asparagus
  • Swiss chard
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Almonds
  • Spinach

Folate (B9)

  • Broccoli
  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal
  • Oranges
  • Dark leafy greens

Vitamin B12

  • Cottage cheese
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Salmon

foods that help anxiety

Vitamin C

  • Blueberries
  • Citrus fruits
  • Bell peppers

Vitamin E

  • Almonds
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Wheat germ
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Butternut squash

Foods high in selenium and magnesium

Selenium-rich foods

Selenium can fight inflammation, increase blood flow, fight oxidative stress and provides antioxidants.

  • Tuna
  • Halibut
  • Shrimp
  • Turkey
  • Beef Liver
  • Eggs
  • Brazil nuts
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms
  • Lima or pinto beans
  • Seeds
  • Brown rice

foods that fight anxiety

Magnesium-rich foods

Magnesium can increase energy, calm nerves and anxiety, and even help you fall asleep. (Um, heck yes!)

  • Black beans
  • Lima beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Avocado
  • Figs
  • Bananas
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Dark chocolate
  • Yogurt

Low-glycemic carbs and foods high in fiber

Contrary to what some have been led to believe, carbs are not the enemy. We need a healthy amount of carbs for steady blood sugar levels and energy. To avoid crashing, sources should come from low-glycemic plant foods that are slowly released and keep serotonin levels even.

Here are a few foods that help with anxiety to try:

  • Oatmeal
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Non-starchy vegetables
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Pears
  • Dried apricots

Need a library of healthy meal plans and recipes at your fingertips? Check out Food Matters TV! I’ve personally used FMTV for the past 2 years and absolutely LOVE it. Their collection of recipes, workouts, wellness plans, documentaries, movies, and ebooks make healthy living so much easier!

foods that help with anxiety

3 foods to avoid like the plague when you’re battling anxiety

In order to relieve symptoms of anxiety, it’s best to avoid these foods or at the very least severely limit them.

Gluten

While most people assume that gluten is completely fine to eat as long as they don’t have Celiac disease or haven’t been tested for intolerances or sensitivities, this isn’t necessarily true.

Gluten weakens the tight junctions of our intestinal lining, which can lead to increased permeability and leaky gut syndrome. Yes, some of us are more sensitive to this effect than others. But to believe gluten is “healthy” as long as you don’t have the above-mentioned issues is inaccurate.

If you regularly suffer from feelings of anxiety, try removing gluten for a time and see how you feel.

Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners

Sugar is a potent neurotoxin that has been linked to anxiety and depression. You’ve probably heard that it’s more addictive than cocaine! Too much sugar can cause brain fog, fatigue, and general feelings of unwell.

Coming off of sugar is difficult, but it CAN be done. Staying away from sugar for even just one week can begin to significantly lessen our cravings for it.

I previously wrote about the damaging effects of a high-sugar diet and how to control cravings in this post

Artificial sweeteners can be even worse! Learn the sneaky places their hiding in this post.

Refined carbs

Refined or simple carbs act much like a sugar hit to your body. Avoid processed white bread, baked goods and pastries, white rice, refined pasta, crackers, and most other processed foods.

Caffeine and alcohol

Ok, don’t slap me through your computer screen! I love my coffee and wine like any proper mama (hehe). But moderation and mindfulness is key to keeping these things healthy. Some of us can handle it and some cannot! The important thing is to listen to our bodies responses and honor them.

Putting it all together

Whew! This is a long list of foods that help with anxiety! (And it’s not even an exhaustive list!)

It’s clear that a healthy, balanced diet in and of itself will help with feelings of anxiety and depression. However, you probably noticed there are several foods which repeat again and again in the above lists.

To get the most bang for your nutritional buck, include the following foods regularly.

  • Fermented foods. Gut health is king! Mental health is profoundly impacted by the balance (or lack thereof) of our microbiome.
  • Healthy fats. Essential fatty acids are extremely important for your brain and mental health! Don’t skip them.
  • Green smoothies. You can load up a healthy green smoothie with all kinds of anti-anxiety goodness! Spinach, kale, yogurt, berries, bananas, seeds, and avocado. Have fun trying out different combinations!
  • Nuts and seeds. Have homemade trail mix on hand for easy snacking. Think beyond peanuts! Include almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts and sunflower seeds. (And leave out the M&Ms!)
  • Hearty salads. Get creative and go beyond the traditional lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. I love trying new salad combinations to keep me motivated to eat my greens. A favorite of mine is spinach, baby kale, salmon, and avocado with pumpkin seeds and cilantro. Yum!
  • Salmon. Salmon is a superstar food! Be sure to include this powerhouse protein as often as possible.
  • Healthy snacks. A few good choices are apples or bananas with nut butter, grapes, berries and dates with walnuts or pecans. Simple, easy and great for helping with anxiety (not to mention sugar cravings!).
  • Spinach, avocado, mushrooms, broccoli, eggs, and turkey. These foods, in particular, show up again and again as healthy foods that help with anxiety. All of them can easily be added to a salad!
  • Drink green tea

foods that help with anxiety

Besides just consuming the above foods, it’s also important to follow the proper dietary framework to get the most out of them. That means eating at regular intervals to keep your blood sugar levels steady. In addition, avoiding foods that trigger our anxiety or exacerbate it is essential.

I hope this list of foods can help you to combat the frazzled feelings that often come with the demands of motherhood. Take care of your body and you’ll be better able to show up as your best self for your family, not to mention lowering your stress levels!

Have you noticed certain foods you eat affect your mood? What are your favorite foods for coping with anxiety?

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Sources:
http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/feel-anxious-and-edge-get-more-these-flavonoid-rich-foods
https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-foods-that-reduce-anxiety#section1
https://www.healthline.com/health/best-diets-for-mental-health#1

7 thoughts on “Best Foods to Fight Anxiety for Stressed Mamas”

  1. I like the valuable information you provide in your
    articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently.
    I’m quite sure I’ll learn a lot of new stuff right here!
    Good luck for the next!

  2. This is such a great list. As a mom, I get stressed from time to time — the problem is definitely eating the right thing in that moment. I always feel better when I eat a real food that. And of course if I reach for sugar or carbs I feel worse. This is such great info to keep in mind. Thank you for sharing!

  3. This is very helpful. I’m not even a mom but I am always get stressed, lol. Thanks for sharing ♥️ ♥️ By any chance you are interested on doing collaborations, you can check out the collaborations portal of Phlanx.com and connect with amazing brands!

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    Tiffany

  4. Hi Liane
    Thanks so much for this piece. It is really helpful. Even for none mums hahahhaha. I will definitely try the foods that you mentioned that are high in fiber and also the good fats.

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