Would you be surprised to learn that there’s a distinct link between food and anxiety, and that antioxidants—that magical free radical killer—can be a game changer in managing that anxiety roller coaster? What? How? Why? Let’s get to it! Here’s the thing about food, anxiety, and antioxidants.
Here’s the Thing about Oxidative Stress...
As a dietitian with a long history of nutrition research on oxidative stress, I could go on and on and on about the fascinating biochemistry behind this connection. My poor husband has heard my spiel on this a hundred times. Here’s the quick and dirty explanation: antioxidant-rich foods—and, actually, foods that promote your body's natural production of antioxidants as well!—help your body "clear out" reactive oxygen species, or ROS, which is essentially rust within the body. ROS builds up in every organ and causes damage, and yes, it's a natural process of aging, but it’s unfortunately compounded by many factors in our daily lives.
In the brain, the damage caused by ROS is known to cause mood disorders. Thus, this sort of ROS “cleaning” from antioxidants can help prevent and support relieving the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Think of your brain as a car. If the engine is covered in rust, it's not going to run well. But if you clean the rust off with a scrub brush, it'll run much better. Now apply that analogy to your brain, and you see the value of antioxidants pretty fast.
On the flip side, there's a correlation factor as well. Eating foods rich in antioxidants also means you're eating whole, real plant-based foods, which will make you feel more energized, fit, and mentally sharp thanks to their polyphenols and fiber. If you're feeling sharp and energized, you're likely going to be feeling less depressed or anxious, or you might be more energized to exercise or just move more, thus also improving mood disorder symptoms. It’s a real win-win.
There are lots of antioxidant-rich foods out there to enjoy, but there’s a bigger takeaway than a grocery list. Foods that help your body produce antioxidants will actually be significantly more effective than foods high in antioxidants.
Here’s a good way to look at it: blueberries are rich in antioxidants—yay! But the amount of antioxidants your body can produce when you're eating foods that support your own natural antioxidant production (affectionately called super-oxide-dismutase-2 production), would be the equivalent of eating like an entire bathtub full of blueberries from an antioxidant standpoint.
So, yes, antioxidant-rich foods are important, but focusing on foods that can support your body's natural production of SOD2 is even better. That includes foods like kale, spinach, onion, garlic, leeks, scallions, shallots, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and swiss chard (think: strong smelling white foods and dark leafy greens).
So Now What?
The logical next question is some version of, “how can I get more of these foods in my diet?!” And honestly, it’s a breeze when you have a freezer stocked with Bumpin Blends! We take care to include multiple antioxidant-rich foods in every single smoothie we make, and we combine them in such a way as to optimize their benefits (ahem, like adding a boost of vitamin C!), while making them extra delicious.
Need real-life examples? Our Thin Mint blend tastes like mint chip ice cream, but—surprise— it’s mostly spinach, with cacao, chia seeds, and fresh milked almonds. AKA… an antioxidant powerhouse.
Smoothies in general are a surefire way to pack in a wide variety of antioxidants quickly and easily. But proceed with caution if you’re buying them all willy-nilly. When they aren’t made by registered dietitians (hint, hint, US!), they tend to add up in sugar quickly, which can actually increase oxidative stress. If you’re mixing up a DIY smoothie yourself, be mindful in avoiding juices and too many high-sugar fruits and yogurts, as well as exhaustive supplements and protein powder—all of which can increase oxidative stress.
Again, the easiest option? Bumpin Blends in the freezer!