6 Foods to Eat When You Feel Anxious

anxious woman

You're feeling jittery, your mind is racing, and your palms are so sweaty you can barely keep hold of your smartphone. Are you going to get in a crash on the highway? What if that mole on your shoulder is skin cancer? And why is a car you don't know parked in front of your house -- could it be a robber? If these OMG thoughts sound familiar, you're probably battling anxiety.

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... which can zap your energy, distract you from your REAL life, and leave you a bundle of raw nerves.

Certain things can help anxiety, though. Exercise for one. Getting enough rest. And of course, talking with a therapist. But the food you can eat can give you relief, too.

We're not talking about emotional eating, FYI. But certain nutrients can  affect your brain chemistry and help you climb off that anxiety coaster.

The Stir asked Susan Albers, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at The Cleveland Clinic and New York Times best-selling author of 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food: Mindfulness Strategies to Cope With Stress and End Emotional Eating: What go-to foods SHOULD you have in your pantry or fridge if you're prone to anxiety?

More from The Stir: The Best Ways to Cope With a Panic Attack, According to Moms Who've Been There

Here's the short list:

1. Dark Chocolate: Sounds too good to be true, but dark chocolate "helps release mood-boosting chemicals such as dopamine and boosts serotonin," explains Albers. "Just 1 oz. can do wonders for keeping you calm." One study found that people who ate 1 and 1/2 ounces a day for two weeks significantly reduced their levels of stress hormones.

2. Oatmeal: That morning porridge helps out in two ways. One, the fiber it contains keeps your blood sugar steady so you avoid mood crashes. Two, "complex carbs are involved in the release of serotonin, which produces a sense of calmness," Albers says. Not a fan of oatmeal? Try quinoa, whole-grain breads, or whole-grain cereals instead.

3. Oranges: Yes, this does have to do with vitamin C, every orange's most famous trait. All that C "boosts the immune system and reduces cortisol levels," notes Albers. (Cortisol is known as the "stress hormone.") In one study, large doses of vitamin C reduced people's physical AND mental responses to stress, so if you don't like citrus fruits, try a supplement.

4. Spinach: When you're stressed, your blood pressure rises. Spinach can help. "It's high in magnesium, which plays a key role in regulating and lowering blood pressure naturally," Albers says. Low magnesium's also been linked to anxiety AND depression.

5. Skim Milk: Drink a glass, have it with cereal -- either way, you'll get a  calming effect, says Albers. Milk's also been proven to reduce stress-related PMS symptoms. Did we mention it will also help you sleep at night?

6. Avocado: Maybe there's a scientific reason we can't resist chips and guac. "Avocados contain healthy fats which help regulate nerve communication and help you think clearer," explains Albers. A deficiency in vitamin B has been linked to anxiety; avocados are also high in those stress-relieving vitamins.

Remember, eating these foods -- even in bulk, which we don't recommend -- won't make your anxiety magically disappear. If you feel your worrying is out of control, you need to look into ways to change your negative thought patterns for good. Explore mindfulness, keep a worry journal, stay away from people who ratchet up your anxiety, and consider asking for professional help. 

 

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