For those struggling with anxiety, finding ways to curb the stress and worry caused by the disorder can lead down quite a few rabbit holes, producing mostly questionable results. One method to reduce these effects is through diet. Food is the lifeblood of the body and mind. Humans derive a lot of pleasure out of food; it boosts dopamine and serotonin, the happy hormones that make people feel better and self-confident. If someone is struggling with their mental health, a change of diet might be just what the doctor ordered - literally.
High in protein, miso has been used for centuries for better health. Fermented foods seem to be very popular at the moment; with kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut being the top three. Miso has been rising as a popular option to those that want to restore their gut microbiome because it has been linked to what’s called the gut-brain axis. The healthier the microbiome, the healthier the brain. In a research study, when harmful bacteria in the gut was replaced with natural bacteria, the brain was calmed, and anxiety waned. This research is ongoing, but miso has shown itself to be a real superfood to curb anxiety.
Turmeric’s role as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory has been well documented for years. Used in eastern medicinal practices for a variety of purposes, turmeric is one spice that should be in everyone’s pantry. The active ingredient, curcumin, has been shown to balance the brain’s chemical hormones including serotonin, glutamate, dopamine, and noradrenaline. Curcumin appears to act as an anxiolytic, known to help with calming anxiety and depression. This combined with the anti-inflammatory effects curcumin provides for the brain make turmeric a wonder for curbing anxiety. For those taking an antidepressant or other anxiety drugs, turmeric has proven to enhance the effects of these drugs, ultimately making them more efficient in the battle against anxiety.
Traditional Chinese medicine certainly has its hits and misses when it comes to what works and what does not with anxiety and depression. Asparagus extract is one product that proved to have significant efficacy in the treatment of mental illness. Asparagus is high in folic acid, an essential B-vitamin, necessary for optimal brain and nerve function. Folic acid has been proven to promote the production of neurotransmitters in the brain. Those who have reduced levels of folic acid are more prone to depression and anxiety. Because of this, it is a good idea to add asparagus to one's daily diet. Asparagus not only makes a delicious side dish for any meal from breakfast to dinner, but it is also a tasty snack for any time of the day.
Most people have heard much about the incredible benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids. They help to ease joint pain, strengthen eye health, lower the risk of heart disease, and so much more. The most effective way to deliver these healthy fatty acids to the body is through consuming oily fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids promote optimal brain health in two specific categories; the prefrontal cortex, where motivation develops and the nucleus accumbens, which regulates emotions. With control over motivation and emotional regulators, the brain feels less stressed out and diminishes cellular inflammation, which is one of the leading causes of anxiety and depression. The sea is a great provider many benefits for normal brain health.
Dark, Leafy Greens
Swiss chard, spinach, kale, and collard greens are excellent choices to add essential vitamins to the body, as they help to reduce anxiety. Dark, leafy greens are nutrient dense and contain the highest concentration of vitamins and minerals that the body needs. These are real superfoods, as they can be mixed into everything from smoothies to omelets to ice cream and everything in between. They act as an armor by producing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits throughout your body and brain. These greens have proven to reduce stress and anxiety by giving the brain blasts of folate--a critical factor in healthy neurotransmitter connections.
A healthy microbiome in the gut contributes to a healthy brain. More and more research is being released, proving that the bacteria in the gut has a profound effect on the way the brain works. The ancient grain, kefir, is almost like a drinkable yogurt. Containing beneficial yeast and probiotics that are essential to a healthy gut microbiome. Added to any variety of milk from cow to soy, these grains culture in the liquid until it becomes the healthy drink seen on shelves today. Fermented foods are an excellent way to return abnormal levels in the body to normal, thus improving the gut-brain connection key to reducing anxiety and depression.
Tea is almost as old as humanity itself, and it may be one of the most studied foods on the planet. Nearly every flower, herb, and weed has been used as a tea, all to varying effects. Certain kinds of tea have risen above the rest in helping to curb anxiety. Chamomile serves its purpose by calming the body and mind. According to a study completed by the University of Pennsylvania, chamomile tea significantly reduced the symptoms of anxiety when compared to placebos, so much that it was called “clinically meaningful.” Green tea is another tea that has substantial effects on anxiety. High levels of the compound L-theanine permeate the tea and are known to reduce stress and relax the body.
People who have a decreased level of zinc in their bodies and an increased level of copper are more prone to symptoms of depression and anxiety. Eating a proper and balanced diet means getting all of the vitamins and minerals that our body needs to function optimally. Experts have found is that a lack of zinc in the body can lead to anxiety. Foods high in zinc can help to alleviate these symptoms. Oysters are one of the superfoods that are high in zinc. Not just known as an aphrodisiac anymore, oysters can help fill the zinc deficiency while at the same time providing low calories and high protein. Extremely healthy for you and can help with the effects of anxiety--a perfect addition to anyone’s diet.
With at least eighteen percent of the population suffering from anxiety, it is no wonder people are researching remedies to enhance their lifestyle and diet. Blueberries have recently emerged as a critical food that battles the effects of anxiety. Cognitive impairment has been reversed by the addition of blueberries to the diet. High doses of this fruit - and associated vegetables containing beneficial flavonoids - have proven to reduce the effects of Alzheimer’s and other brain impacting disorders including anxiety and depression. The brain works more efficiently when these flavonoids are readily available within the body. Blueberries are tasty at any time of day and are available year round in the frozen section of the supermarket.
Chronic anxiety can lead to a plethora of adverse health effects on the body. High blood pressure leading to stroke or heart attack, migraines, and dizziness can all permeate daily life for sufferers of the disorder. Although oatmeal may seem like an unlikely ally in the fight to curb anxiety, healthy carbohydrates in oats actually increase serotonin production in the brain; the happy hormone can relieve feelings of worry, nervousness, and stress. Oats are high in fiber, providing energy that lasts throughout the day and leads to an increase in resilience often found lacking in those with anxiety. Oatmeal can also help with leveling off blood sugar levels that accompany an unbalanced diet; these levels spike up and down during the day leading to an unrelaxed brain.
Many different types of nuts are known to help those dealing with anxiety and mood disorders. Brazil nuts are high in selenium, a chemical compound found in food that helps to boost one’s mood by reducing inflammation within the body, which increases with anxiety. Selenium is also a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage, and it is also an anti-carcinogen, helping to prevent cancer as well. It is also important to note that individuals should consume no more than the recommended daily limit of 400 micrograms of selenium, equivalent to three to four Brazil nuts a day, as too much selenium can cause unsightly side effects. Brazil nuts and almonds are also a great source of vitamin E, another mighty antioxidant, which can be significantly beneficial for treating anxiety, as some studies have shown that low levels of vitamin E can lead to depression in some people.
Not only is dark chocolate delicious, but it is surprisingly good for you! Many health experts have long believed that dark chocolate might help reduce anxiety and stress levels, and one study done on a group of female students discovered that forty grams of this rich treat helped reduce perceived stress in the participants. Dark chocolate is a rich source of polyphenols, especially flavonoids, an antioxidant that benefits brain function. Flavonoids are believed to help reduce neuroinflammation and cell death in the brain, as well as improve blood circulation throughout the body, including boosting blood flow to the brain and promoting its ability to adapt to stressful environments.
This delectable treat also contains a high tryptophan level, which the body converts into mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, such as serotonin in the brain, as well as magnesium, which may help to reduce the symptoms of depression. When choosing dark chocolate, seventy percent or higher is the goal, and eating dark chocolate in moderation is best as this scrumptious food is high in calories and contains added sugars and fats, so a small serving of one to three grams should do the trick.
Yogurt contains healthy bacteria called lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, and with emerging evidence, these two types of bacteria and fermented foods can have positive effects on brain health. Other clinical studies have also suggested that yogurt and dairy products may also have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, which can help lessen signs of anxiety, stress, and depression. In one study, yogurt and fermented foods reduced social anxiety in some participants, while numerous studies discovered that eating healthy bacteria increased levels of happiness in others.
The probiotics found in some kinds of yogurt can help to improve numerous aspects of one’s health, including their digestive and mental health, due to its natural gut bacteria. Many studies have proven that probiotic foods can help promote healthy brain function by inhibiting free radicals and neurotoxins, which can damage nerve tissue in the brain, resulting in anxiety and depression. It is also important to mention that not all yogurts contain probiotics, and to receive these health benefits, select a yogurt that has live active cultures listed as an ingredient.
Eggs and many types of dairy and meats contain high-quality protein including critical amino acids that produce the vital neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which improve one’s overall mental health. Eggs are a complete protein, meaning that all the essential amino acids it contains are important for the body’s growth and development. Egg yolks, in particular, are also an excellent source of vitamin D, a known vitamin that promotes healthy brain function and can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Researchers have discovered that a vitamin D deficiency can result in mood disorders, like anxiety and depression, and a study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders believes there is sufficient evidence proving that vitamin D helps with depression. This versatile food also contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body create serotonin, a chemical neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, behavior, memory, and sleep. Serotonin is also believed to improve brain function and relieve anxiety.
As previously mentioned, some researchers think that tryptophan, which is found in turkey and chicken, can positively affect an individual’s stress and anxiety levels, as this amino acid helps the brain produce feel-good chemicals, like dopamine. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which helps individuals feel calm. Beef and other red meats also contain other amino acids that are critical for one’s mental health and brain function. For one, many types of meat contain B vitamins, including thiamine or vitamin B1, which affect mood.
Similar to vitamin D, researchers have found that a deficiency in B vitamins, such as B12 and folic acid, can trigger depression in some individuals. Meats that are rich in B vitamins that help ward off anxiety include beef, pork, and chicken. Protein found in meat also helps to stimulate the production of norepinephrine and dopamine, neurotransmitters similar to serotonin that carry impulses between nerve cells. Higher levels of these natural chemicals have proven to boost alertness, mental energy, and reaction time.