Is there a diet that can help manage anxiety so you feel calmer and more relaxed?
Current research studies support the role of diet in mental health. Stress changes normal eating habits. People with anxiety and depression often have unhealthy diets. They tend to eat too few fruits and vegetables, choosing high fat, high sugar foods instead. They also end to consume too many calories.
The Western diet (which is full of fast food), for instance, correlates with ADHD. Even the food consumed by a pregnant woman seems to impact her offspring. Diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in sugar are much better for mental health.
The brain is connected with the gut via the gut-brain axis. About 95% of the feel-good chemical, serotonin, is found in the gut. What happens when digestion is impaired and the gut is inflamed? Not only will you feel bloated and have an upset stomach, but you may also have brain fog, anxiety, and low mood.
General Rules For A Healthy, Anti-Anxiety Diet
Think about the Mediterranean diet, as this is a known healthy diet. It is based on whole foods from all groups: veggies, fruits, legumes, grains, lean meats and fish, dairy, healthy oils, nuts, and seeds. It’s not only heart-healthy but also helps lower cortisol levels, promotes stress resilience, and aids with healthy aging. Low carb diets, including the keto diet, can also help.
Try to add more foods from the list below:
Omega-3 rich foods. Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in brain function. They also have anti-anxiety effects, reducing brain inflammation, supporting healthy levels of a special protein called BDNF, and lowering cortisol. While omega-3 fatty acids have strong anti-inflammatory effects, omega-6 fatty acids do the opposite. It’s best to choose foods that are high in omega-3 and low in omega-6 fatty acids. Great sources include snow crab, Atlantic cod, mussels, amd fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, albacore tuna, and sardines. Walnuts and flaxseeds are best. Flaxseed oil and olive oil are better choices than vegetable oil. You may be surprised, but foods like rapini, spinach, lettuce, mango, and kidney beans also contain omega-3 and have low amounts of omega-6. If you choose to add pills, make sure you get a high quality product from a good brand. Fish oil and krill oil contain omega-3 fatty acids, while cod liver oil also contains vitamins A and D.
Magnesium rich foods. Diets that are low in magnesium seem to promote anxiety, based on some studies. Magnesium is an essential mineral with well-known anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effects. Make sure you eat foods such as leafy greens (like spinach and Swiss chard), legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. In pill form, magnesium threonate may be the best choice. This is beacuase it easily crosses the blood brain barrier.
Probiotic rich foods. Probiotics help correct imbalances in the gut flora and also show promise for preventing and managing anxiety and depression. Sources include kefir and yogurt (choose plain and unsweetened products), naturally fermented sauerkraut, kimchi and other pickled veggies, kombucha, tempeh, and miso. Apple cider vinegar with mother is a fermented drink that contains some friendly bacteria. Probiotic pills contain single or multiple strains from Lactobacilli and Bifido species.
Foods And Other Things To Avoid
All highly processed foods, food with added sugar, fried food, and salt. These are not good sources of vitamins or antioxidants, and they promote inflammation.
High omega-6 and/or low omega-3 foods. These include soybean, safflower, and corn oil and highly processed foods.
Irregular eating. It is not only the macro and micronutrients in the diet that affect anxiety. Irregular eating causes drops in blood sugar. It also has an impact on hormones that influence the circadian rhythm. This further impacts eating, thoughts, and behavior.
Also avoid eating when you are feeling stressed or while watching TV.