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Q: Are there any foods I can eat to reduce stress and anxiety?

Maui Health: In these stressful times, there are many things you can do to manage anxiety and take care of your mental health. While you may associate the word “self-care” with a spa day, yoga or meditation, self-care looks different to each person and includes focusing on getting appropriate number of hours of sleep, exercise and even managing stress levels with what you eat.

That's because certain foods help regulate or lower levels of cortisol, the hormone your body releases when you're stressed. Look for anti-inflammatory foods because foods that reduce inflammation will also lower cortisol.

Look for foods rich in magnesium, like oatmeal, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, spinach, bananas, and avocados. Magnesium not only reduces inflammation it also helps your body metabolize cortisol.

Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial, including fatty fish like salmon and sardines, avocados, olive oil, oysters, walnuts, and oily seeds like chia and flax. Also, look for vitamin-B-rich foods like beef, chicken, eggs, and organ meats. If you don't eat animal products, fortified cereal and nutritional yeast are also rich in vitamin B.

Finally, eating foods rich in protein, like meat, fish, nuts, and legumes, can help because they help keep blood sugar levels balanced.

Now for the bad news: while many people turn to alcohol or "comfort foods" when they're anxious, these foods can actually make things worse. Alcohol, caffeine, and foods high in sugar or simple carbohydrates can raise your cortisol levels, making you feel more stressed. So in the moment, they may make you feel good, but soon after can have negative health effects.

The bottom line is that by taking care of your mental and physical health with plenty of rest, regular exercise, and cortisol-reducing foods, you can help yourself reduce anxiety and feel less stressed.