Nutrition Tips To Alleviate Anxiety

Happy woman with fresh produce

By Barb Biagioli

Did you know that anxiety disorders impact approximately 40 million adults? Research suggests that 18% of the population has been diagnosed with anxiety with numbers are on the incline – and 30% of adults qualifying for an anxiety related diagnosis during their lifetime.

It comes as no surprise that anxiety disorders are on the rise. Our fast paced lives, convenience based foods, lack of exercise, sleep deprivation and high stress jobs are all contributing factors. Only about 1/3 of those suffering from anxiety seek treatment – many of which are prescribed medication that masks the underlying cause and sometimes even exacerbates the symptoms.

Diet and lifestyle play an important role in addressing the manifestation of anxiety. Among other dietary considerations like – proper hydration, less alcohol and caffeine – eating a whole foods diet that is made up of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, can alleviate anxiety. And a higher intake of fruits and vegetables has been correlated with better mental health. Maintaining a stabilized blood sugar level throughout the day can also yield feelings of calm. It is when we experience drops in blood sugar that make us feel jittery, anxious and unease. It is also true that our consumption of caffeine, alcohol and sugar are villains when it comes to anxiety.

In addition, research shows that there is a connection between our gut health and anxiety. Since the majority of the “happy hormone”, serotonin, is made in the gut, it is important to consider how the foods you eat impact the wall and cells of your gut lining and affect the ability of your body to balance your hormones.

The good news is, there are plenty of wonderful plant based foods that have the power to positively impact your health – including your anxiety. Making changes to your diet may be the best place to start if you are trying to manage your anxiety and embrace unfamiliar feelings of Zen.

8 Foods That Quell Anxiety

There are a variety of foods that can help to reduce your anxiety. Including these 8 foods in your diet will help you reach your goal of managing your anxiety, minimizing it, and some instances, reducing or eliminating the need for medication. These feel-good-foods initiate the release of neurotransmitters, serotonin and dopamine, along your gut-brain axis, improving your mood and impacting your overall health.

Avocados

Avocados are full of B vitamins and monounsaturated fats that are crucial for brain health. They are also packed with potassium, which helps to lower blood pressure. As if avocados weren’t already your favorite superfood, you now have permission to add them to your toast, salad, smoothie, grain bowl and burrito. Or make chocolate peanut butter avocado pudding.

Asparagus

Low levels of folate have been associated with a higher risk of anxiety. Rich in B vitamins and anti-anxiety properties, asparagus is a great addition to your anxiety reduction regimen.

Cashews

Foods rich in zinc have been linked to lower anxiety. Add cashew nut milk to your morning breakfast routine or make your own cashew cheese at home.

Chamomile

Chamomile is known for its soothing and calming properties. Sip on this throughout the day or before bed to reap the benefits of this anti-anxiety tea.

Dark Chocolate

Diets low in magnesium have been associated with increased anxiety related behaviors. Because dark chocolate is not only a rich source of magnesium, but also high in antioxidants, consider adding a scoop of cacao powder to your protein shake or snack on a square of dark chocolate (80% or higher) when your sweet tooth strikes.

Leafy Greens

Load up on those leafy greens! If you struggle with debilitating stress and anxiety, add spinach, kale, and Swiss chard to your rotation. Not only are they a healthy dose of magnesium, they help to regulate the gut-brain axis.

Sauerkraut

Back to the gut again. Imbalances in the gut, otherwise known as the second brain, can interfere with brain chemistry. Foods like alcohol, caffeine and sugar wreak havoc on our gut health, altering the way our body regulates mood. Including foods that contain probiotics and healthy bacteria, like sauerkraut, help to alleviate digestive distress and reduce anxiety symptoms.

Turmeric

Considered medicinal in cultures around the world, turmeric is a member of the curcumin family known for its ability to prevent cancer, reverse disease, and yes, improve your mood! Goes great with hearty fall foods like soups, stews, chilis or curry. Or treat yourself to a golden milk smoothie.

8 Tips for Managing Anxiety

In addition to adding these 8 specific foods to your diet, here are 8 tips for tackling your diet head on that will help to manage your stress load and improve your anxiety.

1. Eat a whole foods plant based diet

2. Eliminate sugar, caffeine, alcohol, processed and packaged foods

3. Eat foods that are high in antioxidants: blueberries, beets, walnuts, spinach

4. Consume foods that are high in zinc: whole grains, kale, legumes, broccoli

5. Eat foods that are rich in magnesium: avocado, dark leafy greens

6. Include foods high in B vitamins: asparagus, dark leafy greens

7. Eat foods high in omega 3 fatty acids: chia seeds, flax seeds

8. Add probiotic foods: sauerkraut, kimchi

NutritionJames Kehoe