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5 foods that calm anxiety

By Shameem Akthar
November 12, 2014 14:08 IST

Want to fight anxiety without popping those pills and tranquilisers? Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, offers five humble food items that be more efficacious than tranquiliser pills.

Everybody knows of tranquilisers today, since they seem to be more commonly used. One may even say they are casually used and often for things that may have to do with lifestyle triggers or nutrition deficiency. Not many know that there are instances of over-prescription, litigation (where the patient has felt his/her doctor had overprescribed), side-effects of suicidal depression that suggests perhaps they may not be commonly used.

Photograph: Ashley Campbell/Creative Commons

As nutritional medicine becomes more assertive, you can safely say that a lot of victims of anxiety and phobias can actually find relief by choosing the right foods or supplements.

These are safer options to long-term abuse (that often leads to addiction) of tranquilisers. Because prescription tranquilisers can make you unwilling to tackle a problem, create an ostrich syndrome (refuse to acknowledge a crisis), plus make you addicted to them, to the point you feel nervous without popping one and find that your dosage keeps increasing, instead of weaning you away from them.

You may be surprised how a lack in healthy eating habits may actually mess us up emotionally and trigger fears and anxieties that may destroy our daily lives.

Carrots

These humble vegetable, seen more as beauty or fitness food, is also said to be a powerful tranquiliser because it contains a natural pain-killer phenylalanine.

Lack of this hormone produced by our body is said to cause anxiety, depression and muscle or body aches.

Carrots also contain a high amount of the calming nutrient magnesium which is much needed by the nervous system. Lack of magnesium is said to be behind many emotional woes -- depression, confusion, panic attacks, cramps, muscular tension, premenstrual syndrome to name a few.

It is also high in natural sedative like Vitamin B6.

Spinach

This leafy green vegetable must surely be one of the wonder super foods for all time. It contains a high dose of the natural stress-buster Vitamin C, needed to block dopamine in the brain.

High levels of dopamine can cause emotional upheavals.

Spinach is rich in a host of nutrients and minerals that are calm-inducing: zinc, vitamin C, a cluster of vitamin Bs, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, to name a few.

It is also rich in many other minerals that help the overall health of the body tissues, thus acting as a powerful 'healing' food, which may explain how it helps to counteract the fall-out of stress in our bodies and even prevent it. It is also rich in the calming calcium, which helps clear the body of the anxiety-inducing blood lactates.

It also positively affects heart health by clearing the body of bad cholesterol.

Capsicum

This is another humble wonder food. It contains natural pain-killing agent like capsaicin. It has a bouquet of anti-oxidants that help prevent a build-up of free radicals. It is rich in vitamin C, a natural ranquiliser.

Barley

Intriguingly, the neglected barley is apparently a wonder food that helps keep us calm. This may explain why barley water is given to an irritable baby, to settle its stomach!

It is rich in the 'happy' vitamin Bs, the calming Vitamin C and a whole host of other nutrients including manganese and magnesium needed for the health of the nervous system.

It also has the soothing selenium, an anti-oxidant. It helps ease the work of the heart by clearing the blood and body of the bad cholesterol.

Barley also manages the blood sugar so we do not suffer the emotional yo-yos which come when our blood sugar dips or spikes.

Avocado

Perhaps it is the most expensive in this list. But it is easily available. To enjoy its benefits you need just a sliver of it: it is better to eat less of it, since it is also high in calories.

Avocado is rich in fats that keep your nervous system happy. It helps manage nutrient absorption, so that other elements that are needed from your food, are absorbed easily, thus fast-forwarding the nervous system's ability to maintain inner peace. But its most important impact on this comes from it facilitating the natural the feel good and calming serotonin levels in your brain and body.

Shameem Akthar
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