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  • Aida Martinez

Foods To Manage Stress and Anxiety

Many people have asked me about which foods are the best for helping manage stress and anxiety. I am so glad this has been brought up as using food as medicine is one of my favourite concepts to share with people and truly one of the foundations of Naturopathic Medicine.  

Despite the stress, anxiety, anger and uncertainty this pandemic has caused, it has also brought TIME to many people: time to cook fresh meals at home, time to really take your time and look at the ingredient list in the products you're eating, time to try that new recipe you've been excited about for a while, time to SIT down, chew slowly and really savour your food.  If you live with your family or friends, you now also have the time to enjoy a meal together without having to rush out the door.  

When it comes to foods that can help manage stress and anxiety, you want to focus on foods that contain magnesium, B6, iron, protein, fibre and good fats.  Here is a break down of where to find these nutrients in foods: 

  • Magnesium, necessary for making the brain chemicals we need to feel calm and grounded is found in spinach, avocado, swiss chard, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, almonds, figs and bananas. 

  • B6 is also needed as a cofactor for the production of brain chemicals that help us feel calm and content.  It can be found in beef liver, tuna, salmon, chickpeas, poultry, dark leafy greens, bananas, papayas, oranges and cantaloupe. 

  • Iron, especially in women, can be low and be a contributor to anxiety.  Iron rich foods include liver, grass-fed beef, eggs, spirulina, lentils, dark chocolate, spinach, sardines, black beans and pistachios.

  • Protein is needed because it's made up of the building blocks (amino acids) for brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) which control your mood.  These include dopamine and serotonin, which make us feel calm and positive.  My favourite sources of protein include: grass-fed beef, organic chicken and turkey, wild-caught salmon, beans, chickpeas, lentils, nuts and seeds such as cashews, pistachios, flax, chia and hemp; quinoa, buckwheat and organic, non-GMO soy foods such as tofu, soy milk, tempeh and edemame.  When you eat a meal with adequate amounts of protein, you feel satiated and you also maintain control of your blood sugar levels. When your sugar levels are out of whack, whether too high or too low, you exhibit symptoms similar to those of anxiety including agitation and sweating.

  • Good fats are necessary to feel satiated and balance your sugar levels so you'll crave less sugary foods and carbs that make you more anxious and are great for brain health. Some of you know that I'm a huge fan of recommending a diet high in good fats for helping with stress, anxiety, depression, sleep, weight loss and overall health.  Sources of good fats include avocados, extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, nuts and seeds, fatty fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon and grass-fed butter or ghee.  

  • Fibre, essential for the regulation of blood sugar levels is also important. When a diet is lacking fibre and it's high in refined carbohydrates, people feel on edge, they crave more carbs and feel sleepy, tired and hungry which usually leads them to crave more carbs. Does this sound familiar? When you eat adequate amounts of fibre in your meals and snacks, you don't have these cravings and you feel calm and satiated. My favourite sources of fibre include pears, berries, coconut, black beans, chickpeas, artichokes, peas, okra, Brussel sprouts, nuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds.

To finish off, allow me to share one of my favourite smoothie recipes which features many of the nutrients we've discussed above.  The only thing I do differently and I encourage all of you to do is to add a scoop of protein powder. It's delicious, creamy and very satiating:

I hope this was helpful and wishing all of you health, focus in the present and peace during this time.

In health, 

Dr. Aida

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