If you’re struggling with anxiety, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, 40 million American adults (or 18 percent of the population) suffer from anxiety, making it the most common mental health issue in the United States. Anxiety is your brain’s reaction to a perceived threat. It can make you feel nervous, panicky, or self-conscious, and sometimes it seems to come out of nowhere.
Reducing or eliminating your anxiety truly requires a holistic approach that addresses your mind, body, and soul. One aspect of managing anxiety that is often overlooked is the foods you regularly consume. Your diet can play an important role in how your body responds to stress. You’re probably wondering what foods you should eat to reduce your anxiety. That’s exactly what we’ll be discussing today! Here are five of the top anxiety-reducing foods to regularly incorporate into your diet.
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, sea bass, and sardines, are high in brain-boosting nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) and vitamin D. Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids help regulate dopamine and serotonin (the neurotransmitters that make you feel happy) and promote your brain’s ability to adapt to changes. Vitamin D has also been studied for its ability to improve levels of calming neurotransmitters.
Rich in potassium, folate, chromium, and vitamins A, C, E, and K, studies have shown that asparagus can lessen anxiety and improve mood. Interestingly, in 2013, the Chinese government approved asparagus extract as a functional food and beverage ingredient to help reduce anxiety. The U.S. needs to hop on this bandwagon!
3. Fermented Foods
There are certain probiotic-rich foods that can help influence the balance of good bacteria in your microbiome (also known as your “gut flora”). More and more studies are showing that changes in the gut microbiome and inflammation in the gut can affect the brain and cause mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. In fact, gut bacteria manufacture about 95 percent of our serotonin! To support your gut health, regularly include probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, high-quality yogurt, and apple cider vinegar into your meals.
4. Dark Chocolate
Ready for some great news? Dark chocolate reduces stress levels! Bursting with antioxidants, dark chocolate has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress hormones. In one study, stressed people who ate 1.5 ounces of 74% dark chocolate daily for two weeks experienced a reduction in catecholamines and cortisol, two stress hormones commonly associated with anxiety. As if we needed a study to prove that!
Everyone’s favorite creamy fruit, avocado, is packed with monounsaturated fats and antioxidants that improve blood flow to your brain (aka the epicenter of your anxiety). Avocados also contain 20 different vitamins and minerals related to mood, such as folate, B6, and potassium. Chips and guac, anyone?
While eating one meal with salmon and asparagus won’t magically make your anxiety disappear, regularly consuming these foods can have a substantial effect on your stress and anxiety levels. Equally important is to reduce your consumption of potentially anxiety-inducing foods including alcohol, caffeine, diet soda, added sugar, and processed foods. Being mindful of your diet is just one component of treating anxiety, but it’s a very important one. So, what’s for dinner tonight?
The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this page are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this post is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics, including but not limited to the benefits of mental healthcare, wellness and nutrition. It is not intended to provide or be a substitute for professional mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is not a substitute for a relationship with a licensed mental health practitioner. Always seek the advice of your therapist, physician or other licensed mental health professional with any questions you may have regarding a mental health condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional mental health advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this page.