If you're one of the 40 million adults (that's about 18%) impacted by anxiety disorder in the U.S., then learning there are simple dietary changes you can make to reduce the symptoms is welcome news—these food swaps will reduce your stress levels too. With our busy lifestyles, finding time to get all the required nutrients into each meal isn't easy, and that's where supplements enter our dietary equation. But with the abundance of information online, it can be difficult to know what to take at what age and—given the expense and that your body can only absorb so much—how many you should be taking.
To find out once and for all, we tapped celebrity nutritionist, registered dietitian, healthy cooking expert, and published author Keri Glassman (she's also the founder and president of Nutritious Life and The Nutrition School). "Though we should try to get most of our nutrients from food, we don't live in a perfect world and life is busy," she told MyDomaine. "So taking supplements acts as a backup, an insurance of sorts (to keep us healthy)." Ahead, Glassman shares the foods we all need to help fight stress; the supplements we should be taking in our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s; and the one stress-busting vitamin you should be taking every day, regardless of age.
The Supplements to Take
Raise your hand if your pantry is jam-packed with supplements you bought on a whim after reading about their health benefits online? Don't worry—you're not alone. Our shelves are practically bursting with pills and potions that promise to boost our vitality, increase energy, induce sleep, and more. The problem is once you lay them all out on the counter, that's a lot of pills to swallow. Thankfully Glassman has a stress-busting solution that only involves one tablet. "I recommend taking a multivitamin every day to ensure that you're getting the stress-fighting vitamins you need, but also for getting into the habit and healthy mindset that goes along with supplementing which can also help to reduce stress," she said.
While a simple multivitamin is key to keeping stress-free, Glassman also has the remedy for a restful night's slumber. "Before bed, supplementing with magnesium can promote healthy sleep and restfulness," she said. This buzzy pill boasts a myriad of benefits, from combating anxiety to improving physical health. Intrigued to know more? We asked Glassman to share her top two to three supplements everyone should take in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s so you're getting the right stuff at every age.
In Your 20s
"With your fast-paced life, you're probably not eating enough of the right foods, which is why a multivitamin is so vital. But you're not alone. Four out of five people don't get the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals through food alone. Taking this once a day will cover all your bases."
"Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil can significantly improve heart health and thus reduce the risk of heart disease. Their anti-inflammatory properties also enhance cognitive performance, which is what you'll need during those college years. The earlier you start taking this, the better."
"Since you're still growing, you'll need protein to keep up your energy. A plant protein is a great option if you need a boost, and it's low-touch, perfect for those years when you're still learning to cook."
In Your 30s
"Now is the time you need to boost immune system with vitamin C from citrus foods or supplements. They act as antioxidants to fight disease-causing free radicals that cause aging."
"They are the healthy bacteria in your gut. Probiotics help your immune system as well as overall your health."
In Your 40s
"Up the omega-3s from fish oils, walnuts, and flaxseeds. These will help fight inflammation of the skin and continue to help fight wrinkles."
"Just like in your 30s, vitamin C (whether it's from citrus fruits or supplements) will help increase collagen in your skin to increase elasticity and fight disease."
In Your 50s
"You need brain food to keep your brain sharp and choline, found in the yolk of eggs, is much-needed to help with cell communication in the brain. It has also been shown to help people with Alzheimer's."
"DHA found in fish oil makes up the largest part of the gray matter in the brain, which helps with cell communication. It has also been shown to reduce the chance of dementia."
"These essential help to fight free radicals that damage our brain cells and support a healthy immune system."
Top 5 Stress-Busting Foods
We know supplementing your diet can get expensive, and Glassman assures us that a few easy food swaps are all it takes to maintain a healthy body and mind. "There are a couple of key ingredients, that if eaten daily, contain essential vitamins and minerals to rid your body of stress," she said. "They have known mood-boosting properties, along with calming benefits." Below Glassman reveals her top five stress-busting foods from breakfast to dinner (and a sweet treat, too):
"Oatmeal (especially made with steel-cut oats) is a source of complex carbs, which help to increase the production of serotonin, a chemical known for its amazing mood-boosting and stabilizing powers."
"Greens like spinach and kale are filled with folic acid, a nutrient that helps maintain normal levels of serotonin, a chemical that is responsible for maintaining mood balance (as if you needed another reason to eat them!)."
"Red, green, and chili peppers are all high in vitamin C, which has been shown to lower levels of cortisol (a hormone released during stress) in the body and reduce the physical and psychological effects of stress. If you hate peppers, nosh on citrus fruits instead."
"Dark chocolate (in its super-dark, most natural state) has been associated with higher levels of serotonin. It also contains magnesium, which may have an effect on reducing anxiety."
The Top Stress-Inducing Foods
Now that you know the top stress-busting foods, what about the ones that can bring on stress? Turns out those favorite ingredients we all reach for in times of crisis are actually making it worse. "Though it may be a natural go-to, heavy comfort foods that weigh us down often just end up causing more stress and anxiety," said Glassman. "Think of the things you naturally gravitate toward and mindlessly scarf down when you're stressed: cheesy, greasy, carb laden foods. And then think about how you feel after you eat them.
It's bound to leave you feeling worse than when you started. I also recommend avoiding caffeine when you're stressed. It will only make you more irritable and anxious."
What are the supplements you take to maintain a stress-free life? Do you swear by magnesium or prefer a multivitamin? If you reach for the junk food when tired and stressed too, then this is how to stop. And as always, be sure to speak to your physician about how best to introduce supplements to your diet.