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13 foods to calm anxiety and reduce stress

February 24, 2020 12:02 IST

The right food choices can help reduce anxiety and stress, says Chef Prabhakar Nagraj.

Eggs and avocado can help calm anxiety

IMAGE: A healthy diet that includes eggs, avocado and the right choice of nuts can help keep stress at bay. Photograph: Courtesy Pixabay.com

As per recent research, depression and anxiety cost the world a productivity loss summing to $1 trillion.

Anxiety not only affects performance but it also deteriorates a person’s willingness to work and carry out tasks that otherwise he or she is supposed to do.

People report that stringent deadlines and difficulty in dealing with people are the biggest triggers of work-related anxiety.

When several people in a large organisation are affected this mental imbalance, anxiety often becomes a contagious issue resulting into deterioration in the quality of deliverables, reduction in the number of tasks accomplished and overall hampering the growth of the company and employees both.

It is fundamentally important to have a wellness plan that works towards the reduction of stress and anxiety at the workplace.

Proper sleep, work-out, meditation and the most under-estimated but highly important, healthy eating habits are the key elements required to regain quality mental health.

Foods and brain have a directly inter-related. Whatever we consume directly reflects on our brain and trigger mood.

There are certain ingredients with calming properties that relax the mind and result in mental ease.

Top corporates of the nation are actively promoting therapeutic menus that promote nutritious food that addresses various ailments and diseases including high sugar levels, high cholesterol level and mental imbalance.

Here are some food items that can trigger positive signals to the mind by calming the nerves.

1. Add Omega 3 rich foods to your plate

Omega 3 rich foods like fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, and herring), walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseeds are power house for omega-3, a fatty acid that promotes the cognitive wellbeing.

Omega 3 rich foods like Walnuts contain neurotransmitters that help in reducing inflammation.

2. Selenium rich foods

Brazil nuts are one of the richest sources of selenium.

Selenium is an antioxidant what reduces inflammation which is at the peak during anxieties.

Brazil nuts also contain Vitamin E which is an antioxidant and works in synergy with selenium for uplifting the mood and increase productivity.

3. Tryptophan rich foods

Tryptophan is the key ingredient in producing serotonin, one of the key chemicals involved in regulating mood.

Eggs, soy and soy products, bananas and dark chocolate are rich sources of Tryptophan and balanced consumption of these food items is suggested can act as effective mood enhancers

Eggs contain essential amino acids which are required for growth and development. Hence, they are titled as 'complete proteins.' Eggs are a good source of tryptophan which is a precursor of serotonin.

Dark chocolate can reduce stress in dual ways - one via chemical impact by producing serotonin and second one is its emotional impact of indulgence by simply savoring a piece of it.

Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids which is an antioxidant helps in reducing inflammation. Be cautious on eating dark chocolate with hidden sugar!

4. Zinc rich foods

Seeds like pumpkin seeds, nuts like peanuts, cashew nuts, almonds are good sources of zinc. Zinc is brain food that will enhance the mood

5. Magnesium rich foods

Nuts and seeds are stress busting healthy snacks. They are high in magnesium and B group of vitamins. Magnesium helps in reducing the blood pressure as well as is anti-inflammatory

6. Avocados

The magnesium-rich fruit is great for brain development and helps to reduce blood pressure.

It also a powerhouse of B vitamins and monosaturated fats which are required for promoting neurotransmitter and brain health.

It contains Folate vitamin which helps in neurotransmitter activity which in turn, enhances the mood.

7. Turmeric 

Turmeric -- the golden spice of Indian and South Asian cooking -- has many medicinal benefits due to its active ingredient curcumin.

Curcumin helps in lowering anxiety by reducing inflammation and stress caused due to oxidative damage of the cells caused during mood disorders.

Your grandmother's old hack of drinking hot milk with turmeric at night helps calm the mind and promotes deep sleep.

8. Chamomile

Chamomile herb contains flavonoids, an antioxidant that helps in reducing inflammation and relaxes the nerve cells.

9. Green tea

Green tea contains theanine, an amino acid that provides anti-anxiety and calming effects and surges in the production of serotonin -- the mood enhancer.

Green tea is the most appropriate replacement for soft drinks, coffee and alcoholic beverages.

10. Oils -- Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)

Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) are found in abundantly nuts, avocado, and olive oil.

MUFA have an anti-inflammatory property plus helps to improve the lipid profile by increasing the good cholesterol -- HDL.

Olive oil contains a good amount of Vitamin E and phytochemicals, wherein both are antioxidants which reduces inflammation

11. Carbohydrate load

Carbohydrates help in increasing the levels of serotonin which improves mood and reduces stress.

Better levels of serotonin better the concentration and focus.

Choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains, sweet potatoes, ragi, oats, buckwheat, brown rice and etc, compared to unrefined wheat flour and the products which spike sugar level that induces fatigue, anxiety, irritability and distortion plus lacks vitamins and minerals.

12. Calcium-rich foods

Calcium rich foods help to fend off the stress.

Calcium and Vitamin D maintains bone health and reduce depression.

Milk, yoghurt, cheese, almonds, sunflower seeds, green leafy vegetables -- broccoli, kale can help in relaxing the muscles relax and stabilising the mood.

Probiotics like yogurt maintaining healthy gut flora which can serotonin -- the mood enhancer.

13. Blueberries

Blueberries contain antioxidants and phytochemicals which reduce the oxidative stress and provide calming effect.

No matter what fruits or food items you consume, try and find out if they are organically produced, washed thoroughly and consumable quality wise.

It is important to keep food into focus for balancing anxiety in your daily life.

The right food choices can help reduce anxiety and stress.


Chef Prabhakar Nagraj is managing partner, culinary development at Elior India. He can be contacted on ga@rediff-inc.com.


Chef Prabhakar Nagraj