9 foods to eat to help reduce anxiety
People can make a variety of lifestyle changes to help manage their anxiety. Eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein can be helpful.
Nine foods to eat to help reduce anxiety
1. Brazil nuts
Brazil nuts are high in selenium. Selenium may improve mood by reducing inflammation, which is often at heightened levels when someone has a mood disorder, such as anxiety.
Selenium is also an antioxidant, which helps prevent cell damage
Other nuts, animal products, and vegetables, such as mushrooms and soybeans, are an excellent source of selenium.
It is important not to consume too much selenium as it can cause side effects. The recommended upper limit for selenium for an adult is 400 micrograms (mcg) per day. So be careful not to take supplements with high doses or eat more than a three to four Brazil nuts a day.
Brazil nuts and other nuts are also a good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Antioxidants can be beneficial for treating anxiety, while some research has shown that low levels of vitamin E may lead to depression in some people.
2. Fatty fish
Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, and herring, are high in omega-3. Omega-3 is a fatty acid that has a strong relationship with cognitive function as well as mental health.
Omega-3-rich foods that contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) provides two essential fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
EPA and DHA regulate neurotransmitters, reduce inflammation, and promote healthy brain function.
Current recommendations suggest eating at least two servings of fatty fish a week.
Salmon and sardines are also among the few foods that contain vitamin D.
Researchers are increasingly linking vitamin D deficiency to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. A report in the Journal of Affective Disorders believes that there is enough evidence to prove that vitamin D positively helps depression. Vitamin D may also improve seasonal disaffected disorder (SAD) during winter.
Egg yolks are another great source of vitamin D.
Eggs are also an excellent source of protein. It is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids the body needs for growth and development.
Eggs also contain tryptophan, which is an amino acid that helps create serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood, sleep, memory, and behavior. Serotonin is also thought to improve brain function and relieve anxiety.
4. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of potassium, which helps regulate electrolyte balance and manage blood pressure.
Eating potassium-rich foods such, as pumpkin seeds or bananas, may help reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.
Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of the mineral zinc.
Zinc is essential for brain and nerve development. The largest storage sites of zinc in the body are in the brain regions involved with emotions.
5. Dark chocolate
Experts have long suspected that dark chocolate might help reduce stress and anxiety.
Although it is still unclear how dark chocolate reduces stress, it is a rich source of polyphenols, especially flavonoids.
Chocolate has a high tryptophan content, which the body uses to turn into mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, such as serotonin in the brain.
Dark chocolate is also a good source of magnesium. Eating a diet with enough magnesium in it or taking supplements may reduce symptoms of depression.
When choosing dark chocolate, aim for 70 percent or more. Dark chocolate still contains added sugars and fats, so a small serving of 1 to 3 grams (g) is appropriate.
Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Indian and South-East Asian cooking. The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin. Curcumin may help lower anxiety by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress that often increase in people experiencing mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression.
Turmeric is easy to add to meals. It has minimal flavor, so goes well in smoothies, curries, and casserole dishes.
Many people around the world use chamomile tea as an herbal remedy because of its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, and relaxant properties.
Some people believe that the relaxant and anti-anxiety properties come from the flavonoids present in chamomile.
Chamomile tea may be useful in managing anxiety. It is readily available and safe to use in high doses.
Yogurt contains healthy bacteria, Lactobaccilus and Bifidobacteria. There is emerging evidence that these bacteria and fermented products have positive effects on brain health (1).
According to a recent clinical review (2), yogurt and other dairy products may also produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the body. Some research suggests that chronic inflammation may be partly responsible for anxiety, stress, and depression.
A 2015 study (3) found fermented foods reduced social anxiety in some young people, while multiple studies (4) found consuming healthful bacteria increased happiness in some people.
Including yogurt and other fermented food in the diet can benefit the natural gut bacteria and may reduce anxiety and stress.
Fermented foods include cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented soy products.
9. Green tea
Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine, which is receiving increasing scrutiny due to its potential effects on mood disorders. Theanine has anti-anxiety and calming effects and may increase the production of serotonin and dopamine.
A 2017 review (5) found that 200 mg of theanine improved self-reported relaxation and calmness while reducing tension in human trials.
Green tea is easy to add to the day-to-day diet. It is a suitable replacement for soft drinks, coffee, and alcoholic beverages.