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Following a nutrient-dense diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and other healthy foods may help some people manage their anxiety symptoms.
Anxiety is a widespread condition, affecting millions of people globally. Symptoms vary, and some people experience them only now and then. However, someone who experiences symptoms for
GAD has psychological and physical symptoms such as:
- excessive worry about everyday events and problems
- difficulty concentrating
- issues with personal, social, and work relationships
- heart palpitations and elevated heart rate
- muscle tension
- chest tightness
Doctors often treat GAD with a combination of treatments, including talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and medications. Sometimes, these conventional treatments do not work long-term. However, some research suggests that proper nutrition may help improve symptoms.
Transitioning to a healthier dietary pattern rich in nutrients
1. Fatty fish
Omega-3-rich foods contain either alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) or two essential
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 anxiety.
Eggs are also an excellent source of protein. They are a complete protein, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids the body needs for growth and development.
Eggs also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps create serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter found in the brain, bowels, and blood platelets that helps regulate mood, sleep, memory, and behavior.
Some studies suggest that diet and gut microbiota could play a role in preventing and treating symptoms related to anxiety. More research is needed to confirm whether this is possible.
3. Pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of the mineral zinc. One
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.
4. Dark chocolate
Experts have long suspected that dark chocolate might help reduce stress and anxiety.
Some research has found that dark chocolate or cocoa may improve mood via the gut-brain axis. However, many of the existing studies on this subject are observational, so it is important to interpret the results with caution.
Although it is still unclear how dark chocolate may improve mood or stress, dark chocolate is a rich source of polyphenols, especially flavonoids.
Chocolate has a high content of tryptophan, which the body uses to turn into mood-enhancing
People with magnesium deficiency should consider taking high dose supplements rather than eating dietary sources alone.
When choosing dark chocolate, aim for 70% cacao or more. Dark chocolate still contains added sugars and fats, so a small serving of 1–3 grams (g) is appropriate.
Turmeric is a spice commonly used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking. The active ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, may help lower anxiety by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress that often increase in people experiencing mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
A 2015 study found that 1 g of curcumin per day reduced anxiety in adults with obesity. People should discuss supplementation with their doctor if they are interested in high dose curcumin products.
Another study found that an increase of curcumin in the diet also increased DHA and reduced anxiety. Turmeric is easy to add to meals. It has minimal flavor, so it goes well in smoothies, curries, and casserole dishes.
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.
According to a 2017 clinical review, yogurt and other dairy products may also produce an anti-inflammatory effect in the body.
Including yogurt and other fermented foods in the diet can benefit the natural gut bacteria and may reduce anxiety and stress.
8. Green tea
Green tea contains an amino acid called
9. Brazil nuts
Other nuts, animal products, and vegetables, such as mushrooms and soybeans, are excellent sources of selenium as well.
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
Brazil nuts and other nuts are also good sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant. Antioxidants can be beneficial for treating anxiety, and
It is best to eat a varied and balanced diet that includes high quality, nutrient-dense carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Aim for whole foods, vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, lean meats, and especially fish. Other foods that may help include:
- turkey and other tryptophan-containing foods, such as eggs, dark chocolate, cheese, pineapple, bananas, oats, and tofu
- nuts, especially almonds — an excellent source of vitamin E that may help prevent vitamin E deficiency, which is linked to mood disorders
- chia seeds, which are a good source of omega-3s
- protein sources, such as lean meat, fish, nuts, and dairy, which provide amino acids that the body converts into mood-lifting neurotransmitters such as serotonin
spinachand Swiss chard, which are both high in magnesium fruitssuch as berries, cherries, and citrus
Evidence increasingly shows that diets high in processed foods can increase anxiety.
When a person is experiencing anxiety and stress, it is always best for them to seek out a specialist, such as a psychologist.
Sometimes, a doctor or mental health professional may recommend talk therapy such as CBT to manage anxiety and stress. Doctors or psychiatrists may prescribe medications such as serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or benzodiazepines.
People should follow a doctor’s instructions when using these drugs, as they can have severe and possibly life threatening adverse effects.
Eating a healthy diet should provide all the nutrients needed for healthy brain function.
A nutritious diet that contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, vitamins, and minerals might help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress.