The adage food is medicine applies to nearly all health conditions and holds true for anxiety and stress too. If you think anxiety is a problem that is exclusive to seniors, think again! According to a 2017 World Health Organization (WHO) report, an estimated 264 million adults have anxiety. Anxiety is widespread and affects people of all age groups. Symptoms of anxiety include tension, fear, excessive worries, sleep issues, muscle tension, to name a few.
The global statistics on the number of people with anxiety issues are not encouraging. But the good news is symptoms of anxiety can be overcome with lifestyle changes and proper nutrition. Research suggests that including specific foods in your menu can help you cope with anxiety and stress.
Without further ado, here are some science-backed foods that may help to reduce anxiety.
Best foods to eat to cope with anxiety & stress:
Wild, deep-caught fish: Fish is a good source of important nutrients like omega-3 fats (EPA &DHA), vitamin D, and protein. All three nutrients are vital to protect your heart and brain health. Including high omega-3 fats may help regulate the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin and have a calming and relaxing effect. Choose to eat wild, deep-caught fish instead of fish from local lakes to avoid mercury and PCB pollutants in lake, and ocean water. The percentage of such contaminants are relatively low among wild-caught, deep-sea fish.
What foods to eat?
Alaskan salmon, cod, mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna, wild Alaskan pollock, rainbow trout are a safe list of seafood you can enjoy.
Fermented foods: Fermented foods are those foods that contain healthy bacteria. Eating fermented food is an ancient practice in many cultures across the world. Research shows that consuming fermented foods like yogurt benefits the natural bacteria in the gut and may reduce anxiety and stress. Recent scientific evidence reveals that fermented foods lower inflammation and offer many protective benefits to the body.
What foods to eat?
Yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, tempeh (fermented soy), kefir etc.
Fiber-rich food: Fiber-rich food is every doctor and dietitian’s favorite food. Dietary fiber is the part of the plant that your body cannot digest. Although undigestible fiber confers many benefits to gut bacteria, reduces the risk of colon cancer, and promotes regular bowel movements.
The recommended dietary fiber intake for people 50 and older is between 20 – 30 grams every day. Just make sure to drink enough fluids when increasing fiber intake.
What foods to eat?
All fruits and vegetables, whole grains like whole grain oats, corn kernels, millets, beans like chickpea, pinto beans etc.
Apples, bananas, strawberries, oranges provide about 3- 4 grams of fiber.
Collard greens or swiss chard have 4 grams of fiber per cup. A medium-sized artichoke gives a whopping 10 grams of fiber.
A half cup of cooked beans gives about 12 grams of fiber!
Herbs: Herbs are natural antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents and offer other therapeutic effects such as relaxing and calming effects. Herbs like chamomile have relaxant properties and are found to reduce anxiety symptoms. They are often recommended as a nightly drink to promote sleep. Green tea leaves contain theanine which is found to have anti-anxiety and calming effects.
What to include?
Chamomile tea, green tea.
If you are taking medications for specific health conditions consult with your doctor before including herbs in your menu. It is always best practice to inform your doctor about taking herbs.
Besides food habits it is also important to incorporate some practical thinking. Focusing on things that you can control and letting go of things that are not under your control is a good practice. Bringing this awareness plays a vital role in coping with stress and anxiety.
Lastly, we want to remind you that seniors are more likely to be scammed with false news, especially during this COVID pandemic. Be sure to verify any information you read or hear with reliable sources and always fact-check to avoid unnecessary worries.