#1-5: Foods That Fight Stress
1. Dark chocolate
Consumption of pure chocolate (at least 70%) could help ease feelings of stress and anxiety because of its effect on anandamide, a neurotransmitter that helps block feelings of sadness and pain. According to a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology
, chocolate may help people feel calmer.
It is important to note that this applies only to consumption of pure chocolate and in moderation as it is high in calories. Researchers at the University of California, Davis
, and the University of California, San Diego
, have actually shown that consumption of chocolate could be linked to depression. Scientists are not certain why this is the case - it may be that excessive consumption of chocolate could result in weight gain, which triggers depressive symptoms. It may also be that trans fats found in chocolate could inhibit the production of omega-3 fatty acids.
Antioxidants help the brain produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays an important role in regulating mood. In a study published in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine
, patients who were treated with antioxidants over a two-year period saw lower depression scores compared with patients who were treated with placebo.
Foods that are naturally rich in antioxidants include berries (especially goji berries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, and cranberries), beans, artichoke, and nuts. Some herbs also provide antioxidants including cilantro leaf
, strawberry leaf
, and milk thistle leaf
3. Fish and nuts
According to the medical journal CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics
, omega-3 fatty acids help improve brain function and fights against depression. In one particular study involving patients diagnosed with bipolar depression, 80% of the patients saw significant improvement with any notable side effects. Omega-3s can be found naturally in nuts, canola and flaxseed oil, fish, and leafy vegetables.
4. Oatmeal and quinoa
According to the journal JAMA Internal Medicine
, consumption of complex carbohydrates such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, and potatoes can help ease feelings of stress because of its effect on serotonin. It is important to avoid refined carbohydrates (such as white bread, sweets, and pasta) which cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Drinking milk may help ease feelings of stress and anxiety. Milk and milk products contain proteins which helps lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also contains the amino acid tryptophan, which has a calming effect and helps induce sleep.
Scientists believe that while the tryptophan levels found in milk and other protein foods alone may not have material impact on brain function, a meal consisting of protein and carbohydrates could ease the entry of tryptophans into the brain.
#6-15: Herbs That Fight Stress
is a sweet, apple-flavored floral herb has long been used as a traditional remedy for anxiety and is now considered a potent medicinal herb for stress relief, according to articles published in various academic authorities, including Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine
, Pharmacognosy Review
, and Molecular Medicine Reports
Conclusions drawn from modern animal and test tube studies have so far supported the historical use of chamomile. In one clinical trial, treatment with a chamomile extract improved anxiety by an average of 50% in people suffering from chronic anxiety, significantly greater than placebo.
According to research conducted by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
, chamomile has found to inhibit anxiety and it may also have clinically meaningful antidepressant activity.
7. St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort
is a slightly bittersweet medicinal herb with proven effects against anxiety and depression. Clinical research since the 1970s have shown St. John’s wort to be effective in treating mild to moderate depression. In fact, short-term response rates to St. John's wort range between 65% and 100% while long-term response rates range between 60% and 70%. An overwhelming majority of evidence in primary care settings shows that St. John's wort is effective for most patients.
In numerous studies, St. John's wort was found to be as effective as some selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants that include Prozac, Celexa and Zoloft. The herb helps improve mood, eases anxiety, and decreases insomnia related to mild to severe major depression. St. John’s wort does not appear to result in the loss of sex drive, which is one of the most common side effects of antidepressants.
Clinical guidelines from the American College of Physicians suggest that St. John's wort can be considered an option along with conventional antidepressants for short-term treatment of mild depression. Preliminary clinical research also found that a combination of St. John's wort and valerian improves symptoms of moderately severe anxiety and depression more effectively than some drugs.
8. Basil leaf
is a minty herb that is popular as as a seasoning in many cuisines. It has a mildly sedative action, and has been used to treat nervous irritability, depression, and anxiety. The herb is considered an antidepressant by some scientists because it exerts a positive effect on brain function, helping stimulate neurotransmitters that regulate the hormones that are responsible for feelings of happiness.
According to the academic journal Pharmaceutical Biology
, preliminary animal studies have found that basil extract has anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties. Researchers have suggested that it may be a potential therapeutic agent against anxiety and depression.
is an intensely aromatic flower that has been used in various systems of traditional medicine to treat depression and anxiety. The scent of lavender has been shown in modern science to have positive effects on mood and can help alleviate mild feelings of agitation or distress.
Some clinical studies have found that lavender improves anxiety, remission rates, and sleep scores for those with mild to severe anxiety compared to placebo. One particular trial found its volatile oils were helpful in providing symptom relief to people with generalized anxiety disorder. The degree of improvement was similar to those who were given a low dose of an anti-anxiety drug. Researchers believe lavender flowers could have similar effects as lavender oil and flowers have similar properties.
is a sweet-scented medicinal herb that has demonstrated many health benefits, including its effect against anxiety. According to modern research studies, passionflower reduces anxiety without inducing sedation. In one study, a combination of passionflower and valerian was shown to reduce symptoms in people suffering from anxiety. In another study, passionflower extract was shown to be as effective as a prescription medication used for anxiety.
Passionflower has been used extensively in Europe for insomnia and anxiety and is increasingly becoming more popular in the United States. The German Commission E
(Germany’s equivalent to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
) has approved the use of passionflower for nervousness. Scientists believe that passionflower works by increasing levels of a chemical called gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA has a calming effect by lowering the activity of some brain cells.
11. Valerian root
is a potent medicinal herb used in traditional medicine to help reduce mental overactivity and nervousness. It has also been used as a remedy to treat symptoms of anxiety, including tremors, panic, palpitations, and sweating.
Scientists believe that valerian, like passionflower, increases the amount of GABA in the brain. Drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium) also work by increasing the amount of GABA in the brain. Researchers think valerian has a similar, but weaker effect.
One preliminary study shows that taking valerian daily reduces anxiety in individuals with mild anxiety. Preliminary clinical research also found that a combination of valerian root and St. John's wort improves symptoms of moderately severe anxiety and depression more effectively than some drugs.
12. Ginkgo leaf
Ginkgo leaf is a mildly sweet herb that is probably best known for its positive effect on brain function, such as improved memory, attention, and cognitive performance.
Clinical research shows that ginkgo
may also reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve quality of life measures such as activities of daily living, mood, sleep, and alertness. Researchers believe ginkgo leaf may inhibit monoamine oxidase (MAO), a process which can lead to the removal of essential neurotransmitters (norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine) from the brain. These neurotransmitters are important for regulating mood.
13. Turmeric root
is a warm and spicy herb that is considered by some to be one of the most potent medicinal herbs in the world. Turmeric contains a natural compound known as curcumin which may help reduce depressive symptoms. Findings from research studies suggest that curcumin may be as effective as fluoxetine (a type of antidepressant drug) in patients with major depression.
According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology
in 2015, curcurmin could reverse the development of depression and enhance the outcome of treatments using antidepressants in people with major depression.
In the academic journal Phytotherapy Research
, curcumin was found to be as effective as Prozac in managing depression, providing clinical evidence that it may be used as an effective and safe therapy for treating patients with mild depression.
contains an amino acid known as L-Theanine which is believed to increase feelings of relaxation due to its effects on the alpha brain waves (a type of brain wave believed to increase increase creativity and reduce depression).
According to a 2006 study published in the academic journal Biological Psychology
, L-Theanine was found to reduce heart rate and nervousnesses and could have anti-stress effects.
Epidemiological research have also found that adults who consume four or more cups of tea daily have a 44% to 51% lower prevalence of mild and severe or severe depression compared to those who consume one cup or less daily.
15. Lemon balm
Lemon balm, or balm mint, is a lemon-scented herb that has been used for centuries as a traditional remedy for treating stress, anxiety, and insomnia. According to a study published in the scientific journal Psychosomatic Medicine Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine
, lemon balm extracts resulted in increased feelings of relaxation and increased alertness compared to placebo.
#16-23: Micronutrients That Fight Stress
16. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for bone health and immune function and a deficiency in vitamin D can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease. According to the academic journal Issues in Mental Health Nursing
, inadequate levels of vitamin D may trigger depression and other mental disorders, which in turn increases the risk of chronic illnesses. Vitamin D can be obtained simply through exposure to sunlight and it is also found naturally in foods such as fish, milk, and tofu.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is vital to muscle and nerve function and is used by every organ in the human body. Magnesium is also important for mental health as it helps convert amino acids into serotonin, which helps elevate mood levels.
According to Medical Hypotheses
, inadequate levels of magnesium could result in damage to neuronal structures, which could lead to depression and other health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Like vitamin D, magnesium can be found naturally in many foods such as avocados, nuts, and seeds.
According to the National Institutes of Health
, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
, low levels of folate could increase the risk of depression and lower the effectiveness of antidepressants.
Several research studies have found that those diagnosed with major depression were found to have significantly lower levels of folate. In another study conducted in the United Kingdom, patients diagnosed with depression were given folic acid and their depressive symptoms showed significant improvement.
Consumption of leafy vegetables like kale, romaine lettuce and spinach may counter anxiety and depression because they are a natural source of folate.
Selenium is a trace element that is considered one of the essential micronutrients and may help prevent heart disease and cancer. According to the international, peer-reviewed journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine
, inadequate levels of selenium could result in depressive symptoms.
Some research studies have found that intake of selenium helps counter the effects of anxiety and depression. The good news is that selenium is found naturally in many foods, including beans, nuts, and whole grains.
Zinc is an essential trace element that is important for immune and digestive function, and for energy metabolism. Scientists believe that it is also important for mental health. According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry
, a number of research studies have found that people diagnosed with clinical depression had lower zinc levels. In addition, zinc deficiency could impact the effectiveness of antidepressants. Zinc can be found naturally in nuts, beans, yogurt, and cheese.
Biotin is a vitamin that is necessary for healthy cell growth and development. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center
, inadequate levels of biotin can cause hair loss, skin problems, fatigue, insomnia and depression. A literature review published in the Journal of International Medical Research
highlights the importance of biotin and other B-vitamins for cognitive performance. Biotin can be found in nuts, eggs, milk, and whole grains.
Iodine is an element that is essential for the production of thyroid hormones which plays an important role in the body's metabolism. The thyroid is a gland found at the base of the neck and it is vital for healthy brain function. According to the New England Journal of Medicine
, iodine is connected to thyroid disease. Iodine deficiency affects the proper functioning of the thyroid, which can trigger depression. Iodine is found naturally in eggs, sea vegetables, fish, and some whole grains.
23. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient necessary for maintaining healthy body tissue. Vitamin C can also help lower stress because of its effect on stress hormones. These hormones, such as cortisol, are released by the body when it is under stress. According to studies conducted at the University of Alabama
, vitamin C may help lower cortisol levels, which in turns alleviates stress and anxiety. Most fruits and vegetables are a rich source of vitamin C.
#24-30: Other Ways To Fight Stress
24. Keep a stress journal
Find out what may be triggering your stress and how the stressors may be impacting you physically and emotionally. Some people have found keeping a stress journal to be helpful. You may be able to find patterns that could help you understand and gradually control the stress. For example, breaking a habit of procrastination may help someone feel less stressed about deadlines.
A proper diet is essential to maintaining a healthy mind and body but exercise also plays an important role. According to Mayo Clinic
, exercise helps increase the production of neurotransmitters called endorphins which are chemical compounds from the brain that are tied to feelings of happiness. In addition, exercise has been linked to increased self-confidence, which can help lower stress and anxiety. The effect may been seen with only 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise daily - anything that increases your heart rate such as walking on a treadmill or up the stairs.
26. Mindfulness techniques
Mindfulness techniques is a meditative approach to mental health that is commonly utilized in modern psychotherapy. It includes meditation, yoga, tai chi and pilates which have both physical and mental exercises that help calm the mind and body.
According to research studies, meditation affects the brain’s neural pathways and makes the body more resistant to stress and anxiety. Even a few minutes of meditation a day could make a positive difference.
Listening to relaxing music or sounds such as slow classical music can have a positive effect on the brain by reducing the stress hormone cortisol. Playing music or singing can similarly have calming effects. If you are having trouble finding the right music, try searching for stress relief music or meditation music on YouTube. Some people may find upbeat music works better for them so experiment with what works best for you.
Laughter releases endorphins that helps to elevate mood and decrease cortisol. Although laughing may be the last thing on your mind when you are stressed, watching a comedy or a stand-up show, or even some funny clips on the Internet could help.
29. Avoid unhealthy coping strategies
Some stress-coping strategies may help reduce stress temporarily but could actually be harmful the long term. Examples include smoking, taking drugs, excessive alcohol, excessive sleeping, binging, and social withdrawal.
30. Try a new activity
Take up a new sport or activity. Places like Meetup.com
can be a great way to find others with similar interests and make some new friends. Other ideas include casual sports leagues, volunteer events, and hobby-based groups. Take time to enjoy yourself.
How do you cope with stress and anxiety? Share your ideas in the comments below!
The statements on this page are for educational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult your healthcare practitioner prior to the use of any herbal products, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have allergies or medical conditions.
The information has been sourced and extracted from scientific papers, academic journals, research abstracts, and other sources. While Purify Tea makes every effort to present accurate and reliable information on this website, Purify Tea does not endorse, approve, or certify such information, nor does it guarantee the accuracy, completeness, efficiency, timeliness, or correct sequencing of such information. Use of such information is voluntary, and reliance on it should only be undertaken after an independent review of its accuracy, completeness, efficiency, and timeliness. While many traditional or folkloric remedies have a long history of use, modern research has only begun to investigate and substantiate their effectiveness. Research is still ongoing in many areas therefore conclusions are subject to change.
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