Anxiety is a common health issue that many people suffer from and anyone can develop anxiety at various points in life.
Although prescription drugs are commonly used to treat anxiety disorders, depression, and other similar health issues, they come with several side effects and are not safe for long-term use.
Many of these drugs may also not treat the root problem of anxiety which is normally an imbalanced nervous system due to the body not getting the specific nutrients (or the right ratio of certain nutrients) it needs to function optimally.
What is Anxiety and Why Food Choices Matter:
Anxiety is merely a miscommunication of hormones and neurotransmitters in the body, or it can occur because the body gets out of balance quickly for whatever reasons. Most people who develop a serious case of anxiety will have to manage it naturally for the rest of their lives.
Hormones like cortisol play a huge role in how prevalent anxiety is, but it’s not the only hormone to consider. Others hormones, such as GABA (an amino acid that acts as a hormone), serotonin, and dopamine also play a large role in anxiety prevalence as well.
Certain foods can greatly improve anxiety symptoms when they are consumed in a healthy, balanced diet.
At the same time, foods such as sugar, excessive caffeine, animal foods with added hormones, certain pesticides, food dyes and artificial sweeteners, and any form of stimulants will tend to make anxiety much worse.
So start cleaning up your diet so you can combat anxiety more naturally. Food can have a profound effect on the brain and sometimes a change in diet may be all you need.
10 Foods That Reduce Your Anxiety Levels:
1. Leafy Greens
Many people are often short of a very important mineral they need to combat anxiety: magnesium.
Leafy greens are one of the best sources of magnesium you can consume and are also one of the highest in chlorophyll. Studies have shown that magnesium and chlorophyll can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and even improve sleep.
Eat more leafy greens like spinach, kale, romaine, arugula, and others such as collards and turnip greens. Even dark varieties of lettuce are packed with nutrition, but be sure you buy all of your greens in organic form since greens are commonly treated with high levels of pesticides in conventional form.
You can easily add leafy greens to salads, smoothies, soups, stews, stir-fry dishes, or any entrée that you please. While most greens are healthier in raw form, if the only way you enjoy them is cooked then, by all means, cook away!
Berries are high in Vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, and fiber. All of these nutrients help reduce stress and can lower your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, two commonly overlooked issues that contribute to anxiety.
Berries are also especially high in antioxidants. Antioxidants play a key role in brain health and have been shown to protect the heart and brain from oxidative stress along with mental stress.
Just like your greens, berries should be purchased in organic form and frozen organic berries are just as great as fresh if that’s all you can afford or buy.
Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, and raspberries are some of the most common types of berries most people enjoy, but superfood berries such as dried goji berries, mulberries, goldenberries, or acai and maqui berry powders are also excellent choices too!
Pineapple has over 100 percent of your daily Vitamin C needs per cup. Vitamin C plays a critical role in nervous system function and reduces oxidative, physical, and mental stress.
Pineapple is also especially high in manganese, a trace mineral that you need for optimal brain health, which many people overlook when considering what nutrients they need for a healthy mind and body.
Manganese also improves metabolic health, bone health, and heart health.
Although manganese is found in many nuts and seeds, pineapple is especially easy to digest and contains even higher amounts in just one cup than most all other foods per serving with the exception of oats, brown rice, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas).
Almonds are also an excellent source of magnesium, healthy fats, and B vitamins, especially Vitamin B6 and biotin. Almonds also trigger the body’s release of GABA, an amino acid that’s a precursor to tryptophan production which is a precursor to serotonin, your feel good hormone that also makes you feel calm and collected.
Be sure you purchase raw almonds as the best option since roasted almonds are normally processed with inflammatory oils and high levels of sodium. Raw almond butter is also a great option too.
Use raw and/or soaked almonds on or in smoothies, in oatmeal or quinoa porridge, snack on them raw, or add them to entrées like salads. You can also add almond butter to smoothies, oatmeal, or use it as a replacement for peanut butter.
Cashews are also very high in magnesium and Vitamin B6. Like magnesium, Vitamin B6 helps calm the nervous system and is very quickly depleted in times of stress. In fact, cashews are so powerful they have been shown to be as effective as Prozac for anxiety and depression!
Cashews are also very high in healthy monounsaturated fats which have been shown to improve your heart health, something that’s very important for a healthy nervous system.
6. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a powerhouse of nutrients when it comes to protein, magnesium, Vitamin B6, healthy fats, and niacin, another important B vitamin that helps combat stress.
The amino acids in peanut butter are also made up of all essential amino acids meaning peanut butter is a complete source of protein. Amino acids are an important component to combatting anxiety along with making sure you’re eating enough of the right types of fats, like monounsaturated fats found in peanut butter, almonds, and cashews.
For the healthiest choice, natural peanut butter with no added sugar or oil is best. If you can find organic peanut butter, that’s even better since conventional peanut butter is often contaminated with pesticides during processing.
Oatmeal isn’t just a delicious breakfast choice that’s great for your heart and waistline, it’s also very high in all the nutrients you need for a healthy mind too.
Oatmeal is packed with protein, B vitamins, magnesium, potassium, fiber, and several other vitamins and trace minerals. It also helps your body produce GABA more naturally which can help improve the release of serotonin in the body.
Rolled or steel-cut oats make a great breakfast choice, and overnight oatmeal or cooked oatmeal are both good options depending on how you like to prepare your oatmeal.
Avocados are rich sources of Vitamin B6, amino acids, monounsaturated fats, fiber, and even Vitamin E which reduces oxidative stress to the heart in times of stress.
Avocados are also a nice replacement for butter or cream in recipes to help you improve your intake of healthy fats. Check out all the other ways you can use avocados!
9. Raw Cacao
Regular chocolate with sugar and dairy milk is definitely not helpful to improving your anxiety levels, but raw cacao on the other hand, is a completely different option.
Raw cacao has little to no caffeine like processed chocolate, and it’s high in calming nutrients that support your mind, especially one very important one: magnesium. Raw cacao is actually the highest source of magnesium among all foods, and it’s even a great source of iron, B vitamins, and zinc.
Raw cacao powder, nibs, or real raw cacao beans are all great options. Just be sure you don’t consume too much before bed since cacao has natural properties that can enhance focus and energy which may keep you awake.
Try adding a scoop of raw cacao powder to your morning smoothie, oatmeal, or stir it in your coffee. You can also top any dish you please with raw cacao nibs too.
Maca is a superfood that has been linked to lower levels of anxiety, depression, and it helps improve hormone function.
It’s also a unique superfood because maca can help improve energy levels or help your body calm down, depending on your needs. That’s because maca is an adaptogen which means it will adapt to your body’s needs so you can use it any time of the day.
Maca has a delicious taste with notes of caramel and butterscotch which makes it a great choice to add to smoothies, porridge, or you can make no-bake energy bars or bites with it.
More Healthy Options:
Other foods that can significantly reduce anxiety in small amounts include walnuts, hemp seeds, wild rice, apples, sweet potatoes, bananas, brown rice, garbanzo beans, broccoli, black beans, quinoa, sunflower seeds, and even healthy beverages such as matcha green tea, peppermint tea, Tulsi tea, or chamomile tea.
Remember, you can improve your health all by what you eat. For more foods you can eat that can improve your brain health, check out this list of tasty options!