In the modern world, most of us have higher levels of anxiety than is either natural or healthy for us.
From the excessive worriers and ruminators to those with a full-blown anxiety disorder diagnosis, it is safe to say that anxiety is on the increase.
Indeed, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that around 40 million American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder.
The real figure is likely to be a LOT higher as many sufferers do not seek medical help and the worry and unease simply become a part of life.
This article will examine the TOP foods to include in your diet that will naturally help to improve your anxiety symptoms.
Before moving on to foods that you SHOULD be including to reduce anxiety, please check out our sister post on the TOP 4 Foods and Drinks to AVOID to help your anxiety symptoms.
The Anxiety Diet
Although there is not a general medically accepted anxiety diet, we will outline the best foods to include in your diet that will help improve anxiety symptoms.
Firstly, however, just taking an interest in your diet and making a few changes are proven methods to help with anxiety and depression.
Indeed, concentrating on something positive and practising self-care are both strategies used in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Thus, simply following these dietary tips may well be therapy in itself.
However, please remember that dietary changes are useful together with (and not instead of) medical treatment.
1) Anxiety Diet: Add Probiotics to your Diet
A 2016 research study shows that the balance of microorganisms (or the microbiome, to be exact) in our gut is essential to healthy brain function.
In fact, the study states that:-
… diet and gut health affects symptoms of stress related disorders, depression, and anxiety through changes in the gut microbiota
Thus, research studies show that improving gut health with probiotics improves the symptoms of depression, especially anxiety disorders.
See our full article on probiotics for anxiety
Probiotic Foods: Eat or drink daily
Natural Live Yogurt: The most important ingredient in the yogurt is the live cultures (bacteria). If buying store-bought yogurt, avoid ones with high added sugar.
Kefir: Is a fermented milk drink. You can substitute cows milk for coconut, soy or almond milk. Kefir is actually very similar to a yogurt drink and an excellent source of probiotics. Remember, again to avoid high levels of added sugar
Sauerkraut: A speciality from Germany. Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage and is super rich in probiotics, fiber, vitamins and minerals. How to make your own Sauerkraut
Kimchi: Is a fermented vegetable dish from Korea. Typically kimchi is made with napa cabbage or radish but there are hundreds of variations and vegetables that can be used.
Kombucha: Fermented tea drink that is a great substitute for alcohol
Pickles: All sorts of pickled vegetables.
2) Anxiety Diet: Add Antioxidants to Your Diet
The balance of antioxidants and free radicals in the body is essential to optimal health.
Very basically then, when there are too many free radicals in the body oxidative stress occurs. Prolonged oxidative stress leads to many diseases, including cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
The very latest research suggests that antioxidants may play an important role in the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Indeed, a 2014 research study suggests that:-
There is growing evidence that the imbalance between oxidative stress and the antioxidant defense system may be associated with … depression and anxiety
Interestingly, another study found that patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression had lower levels of some antioxidants than a healthy control group.
Finally, it is becoming increasingly obvious that diets high in fruit and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and lean proteins reduce the risk for anxiety and depression.
This is probably why people following the Mediterranean lifestyle are 50% less likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
Where do we find Antioxidants?
Well, there’s no surprise that the best sources of antioxidants are found in plant-based foods.
There are literally tens of thousands of compounds that have antioxidant qualities but here are some examples:-
- Vitamins: Especially Vitamin A, C, E and beta-carotene
- Minerals: Zinc, Selenium and manganese
- Lutein and Lycopene
- Flavonoids, phenols, polyphenols and Phytoestrogens
Anxiety Diet: Best Antioxidant Foods
Below is a list of antioxidant rich foods to add to your diet.
Many of these super-foods contain a combination of healthy vitamins and minerals that will nourish the body and mind.
- Sunflower Seeds
- Nuts: Almonds, peanuts, walnuts and pecans
- Leafy Greens such as spinach, swiss chard, turnip greens, beet greens and mustard greens
- Beans: pinto beans, black and kidney beans
- Berries: Strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries
- Vegetables: Spinach, broccoli, kale, artichokes and beetroot
- Fruits: Apples, prunes, cherries, plums, oranges, lemons and limes
- Spices: Ginger and turmeric
- Red Wine
- Green Tea
3) Anxiety Diet: Add Magnesium to Your Diet
The link between low magnesium levels and anxiety and depression has been well documented in medical research.
It is safe to say that some studies suggest that a higher intake of magnesium is associated with lower depressive symptoms, including anxiety.
So, studies show that 68% of Americans and 72% of middle-aged French adults do not eat the recommended amount of magnesium. Indeed, a lack of magnesium is the second-largest deficiency in the modern world.
Do not worry about overdose as too much magnesium taken from food in the diet does not pose a health risk in healthy people.
Anyway, we are aiming for a healthy, balanced diet rich in foods that naturally help with anxiety.
For an idea of how much magnesium you need, the Recommended Dietary Allowance for adult women is 310 to 320 mg and for men 400 to 420 mg per day.
Note: if you have kidney problems consult a specialist before making any dietary changes.
Anxiety Diet: Foods Rich in Magnesium
It is actually quite difficult to find out your exact magnesium levels.
However, really good sources of magnesium are readily around in some healthy foods, so let’s take a look:-
- Swap that white bread to whole grain. Whole grain flour is a rich source of magnesium as is the bread (around 40g per slice)
- Nuts: Especially almonds (80g per oz), cashews (74g per oz) and peanuts (63mg per oz)
- Dark Chocolate (64mg per oz)
- Quinoa (118mg per oz)
- Spinach (78g in half a cup)
- Black beans (60g per half cup)
- Edamame (50g per half cup)
- Some cereals: shredded wheat (61g in two portions)
- Avocado (44g per cup)
- Baked potato (43g a potato)
- Brown rice (42g per half cup)
- Yogurt: plain, active (42g per 8oz)
- Fortified breakfast cereals (this is cereals with added magnesium – be sure to check for low or no added sugar)
Other Good Sources of Magnesium
- Kidney beans, canned
- Chicken breast
4) Anxiety Diet: Add Omega-3 to your Diet
There is a lot of research evidence that links Omega-3 with improvements in anxiety symptoms.
Indeed, a 2014 systemic review of 19 research trials and 2240 subjects from around the world shows that Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce anxiety.
Furthermore, the effect of Omega-3 was stronger in subjects with a clinical conditions than those with milder symptoms.
So, all you have to do is include plenty of foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet.
No surprises here either, the foods rich in Omega-3 are all natural, healthy whole fresh foods.
Good Sources of Omega-3 fatty Acids
- Fish and seafood: Especially mackerel, salmon, sardines, seabass, prawns, trout and oysters
- Seaweed and Algae
- Seeds: Chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds
- Nuts: Walnuts
- Beans: Edamame, soybeans and kidney beans
- Vegetables: Spinach and Brussel sprouts
- Fortified foods: Some foods such as fruit juices, eggs and yogurts where Omega 3 is added
5) Anxiety Diet: Add Asparagus
Asparagus is held up as one of the healthiest foods in the world and for good reasons too. This rather attractive vegetable is packed with:-
Furthermore, results from some medical studies show that asparagus extract has natural anti-anxiety properties. Indeed, the Chinese government approves the use of asparagus extract for help with anxiety.
In addition, the humble asparagus is high in fiber, low in calories and a good source of potassium, which lowers blood pressure.
As research continues in all aspects of health and diseases, many specialists are beginning to take notice of the importance of the role of diet.
Indeed, whether you suffer from mild anxiety or one of the many anxiety disorders, changing your diet may significantly help you to improve your symptoms.
Although most people reach for that unhealthy pick-me-up when feeling stressed, such as a high sugar or carb-laden treat this may actually be adding to the low mood and anxiety.
A recent medical study identifies a direct relation between a poor, inadequate diet and the occurrence of anxiety disorders, sleep disturbances and mood disorders.
The Standard American Diet is known as the SAD diet for very good reason. For example, only 12% of the calories come from plant-based foods, whilst a whopping 63% of calories derived from refined processed foods.
Needless to say, that many people in the Western World are, according to Dr Hyman (Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine)
“… overfed and undernourished, consuming an abundance of “empty calories”
The medical study concludes that an important factor to a patients’ psychological health is their nutritional status.
Furthermore, the 2017 study suggests that when prescribing drugs for anxiety or depression it would be beneficial to consider the nutritional status of the patient.
Thus, nutritional supplements should be considered either as a primary treatment or alongside medical treatments.
- Index of ALL our Articles on Anxiety
- How to Reduce Anxiety: TOP 4 Foods and Drinks to Avoid
- Probiotics in the Treatment of Anxiety
- Natural remedies for anxiety
- Hashimoto’s Diet: What Foods to Eat and Why
- Addicted to Junk Food? Is this possible?
- Anxiety Attack? Don’t Panic!
- The Fertility Diet: The Natural Way to Conception
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