Are you struggling to keep anxiety at bay even though you meet regularly with a therapist, take your medication as prescribed, and have a good support system? The truth is, treatment for anxiety shouldn’t stop when you leave your therapist’s office, screw the lid back on the pill bottle, or step away from your family and friends. Effective anxiety management involves one other significant factor, your diet.
If you haven’t tried tweaking what you eat, then you may be missing a valuable opportunity to beat back your anxiety. Researchers now refer to the gut as the second brain. When essential nutrients are not sufficiently available, there is a direct effect on the production of neurotransmitters and brain chemistry that can increase or lessen anxiety-related behaviors.
Does adjusting your diet to ease your anxiety seem daunting? It doesn’t have to be. Reflecting on the choices you make when it comes to food is a straightforward, positive lifestyle change for your body and brain. The modifications you can make to your diet are as simple as swapping out foods that could spike your anxiety to foods that may lessen the severity of your symptoms. Avoid binge-eating your go-to comfort foods (which only leave you feeling guilty and more anxious) and enjoy nutritious superfoods with mood-boosting properties. You’ll feel better for it.
Start eating foods that help with anxiety and stress today by introducing these eight simple food swaps into your diet:
Many studies going back to the 1960s indicate that many people who suffer from anxiety and depression have an elevated incident of folate deficiency. Asparagus is one vegetable that contains a valuable amount of this mood-boosting nutrient. One cup alone provides two-thirds of your daily recommended folate value.
Vitamin B6 helps the body make several neurotransmitters, including serotonin, which influences mood. The B vitamins, including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin, have positive effects on the nervous system. Deficiencies of these vitamins have been linked to increased anxiety in some people. Avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins and heart-healthy fat that may help to lessen anxiety.
When we’re anxious and stressed, our bodies crave vitamin C to help repair and protect our cells, and blueberries are packed full of it. Small but mighty, blueberries are bursting with antioxidants and vitamin C, which have been shown to provide anxiety relief. One study examined the effects of oral vitamin C supplements on anxiety in a group of students and found that antioxidants may be useful for both the prevention and reduction of anxiety.
Ever heard of tryptophan? It’s the nutrient in turkey that puts you to sleep after Thanksgiving dinner. Okay, it’s a little more than that. Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body needs to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps regulate sleep and mood. According to the University of Michigan, tryptophan may help reduce anxious feelings.
Researchers have shown that magnesium may be an effective treatment for anxiety-related symptoms, as inadequate magnesium minimizes the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. Just 1 ounce of almonds (that’s about 12 nuts) ¬ contains 75mg of magnesium which is 19% of your daily recommended value. You can also find magnesium in foods such as legumes, seeds, and everyone’s favorite¬ avocado.
You might be surprised to learn that fermented food, including yogurt, one you might not ordinarily think of as falling into this category can help reduce anxiety! A link has been found between the consumption of fermented, probiotic foods and a reduction in social anxiety. The best yogurts Greek, plain versions in particular that contain “live and active cultures” are guaranteed to have 100 million probiotic cultures per gram or about 25 billion probiotic cultures in a cup. Other probiotic foods: pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha, and miso.
• Kale (or Arugula)
Researchers at the State University of New York found that anxious symptoms are linked with a lower antioxidant state and that antioxidants can help with mood, too. Dark, leafy greens like kale, which is rich in beta-carotene and vitamin E, are needed to boost antioxidant levels and support optimal brain functioning.
According to another study from Ohio University, omega-3 fatty acids are particularly effective when it comes to foods that help with anxiety. You can find omega-3 fatty acids in foods like salmon, chia seeds, soybeans, and walnuts as well as cold-pressed olive oil. Our brain requires the right dietary fats to function properly, so you’ll want to eat enough of the beneficial fats that support a healthy brain-gut microbiome, which means replacing red meat with seafood.
Ultimately, finding what works best for you is key. If you think you’re suffering from anxiety (or another mental health issue), your first line of defence and the best bet is to find a mental health care provider to talk to so that you can create a plan of action. Together, you may agree that tackling anxiety through dietary shifts may be one piece of the puzzle toward more sound mental health.
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