Anxiety is the most common mental disorder
in the United States, affecting about 40 million adults. Therapies and medications are part and parcel of conventional treatments for anxiety, but diet plays an important role in anxiety management. Sadly, it is often overlooked.
Some nutrients are ideal for addressing anxiety
and supporting your mental health. Adding more foods that contain those nutrients to your diet may help ease your anxiety and promote a sense of inner calm.
Best nutrients for anxiety
Try to consume more of these nutrients to keep anxiety at bay:
If you usually feel stressed or tired, check your magnesium intake. Magnesium helps suppress cortisol -- dubbed the "stress hormone" -- production by the adrenal glands. Moreover, magnesium can cross the blood-brain barrier, acting as gatekeeper to stress responders. It also helps prevent stress hormones from flooding the brain.
The best food sources for magnesium include leafy green vegetables, cacao
, avocado, nuts and seeds.
2. Choline and B vitamins
is a recently discovered fat-soluble vitamin. While your body makes choline, nutritionists still advise that you get it from foods to avoid a deficiency. A lack of choline has been linked to a higher risk of anxiety.
This is likely because choline is crucial for the production of acetylcholine, a chemical messenger that regulates your body's stress response. You can get choline from egg yolks, animal organs and fatty fish like salmon.
Having low levels of other B vitamins, including B12, B6 and B9, has also been linked to a higher risk of mental health problems like mood disorders.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea and mushrooms. L-theanine helps alleviate anxiety by reducing excitatory brain chemicals that contribute to stress while increasing the chemicals that promote a sense of calm. L-theanine also increases alpha brain waves, which your brain produces when you're relaxed.
Recent studies have shown that the brain and gut are inextricably linked. Your gut houses lots of bacteria, both good and bad, and tries to balance them. When the gut is in a state of bacterial imbalance because of poor diet or gut problems like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), it makes excitatory brain chemicals that may trigger anxiety and even mood disorders.
Probiotics are live cultures of bacteria and yeast found in certain foods. These beneficial microbes can help restore balance in your gut. They are usually found in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut, but you can also take probiotic supplements.
Other nutritional strategies to reduce anxiety
Aside from eating more foods rich in the nutrients listed above, you may want to consider practicing the eating habits listed below to ease anxiety
- Eat a protein-rich breakfast – Protein helps sustain your energy levels. Protein also helps boost your alertness, mental energy and reaction time.
- Choose complex carbs – Complex carbohydrates from whole grains (e.g., oats, brown rice) are said to increase the amount of serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is the key hormone that controls your mood.
- Drink water – Mild dehydration can negatively affect your mood.
- Limit or avoid alcohol – Alcohol can put you on edge and interfere with sleep.
- Limit or avoid caffeinated drinks – Caffeinated drinks improve alertness. But if you have anxiety, it may be better to stick to healthier drinks like decaffeinated tea and fresh fruit juice to avoid jitteriness.
- Eat balanced meals – Make sure your meals have ticked all the right boxes when it comes to nutrients to avoid deficiencies that could lead to mental health problems.
Some nutrients help ease anxiety
and improve mental health better than others. Make sure your diet contains foods rich in these nutrients to keep anxiety and other mental health problems at bay.