I’ve always been a high-anxiety person. Even as a child, anxiety was just my thing. Even when things were going well and my life was calm, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop or felt like someone was standing on my chest.
When I started to get more into nutritional research, I was seeing more and more information linking anxiety to nutrition. And while anxiety issues are not necessarily caused by what you eat (or don’t eat), that doesn’t mean that you aren’t contributing to your anxiety by eating foods that increase the symptoms.
The idea of using nutrition to decrease or even prevent conditions like anxiety intrigued me. I looked into not only what we should be eating to reduce anxiety, but also what we should be eliminating from our diets. Let’s start with the elimination part, then we’ll move on to foods you can add into your diet to help reduce anxiety.
Foods to Avoid if You Suffer From Anxiety
This includes caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and energy drinks. Now, many people do fine with stimulants, and if you do, I say power to you. But if you suffer with anxiety, you might want to see what it’s like when you avoid them for a while. Even if you don’t think stimulants affect you immediately, they can still have an affect hours later. While stimulants are great at giving you a boost, for anxiety sufferers they may be doing more harm than good.
Fast Food & Fried Foods
These foods are full of additives, and many of these additives are thought to contribute to anxiety. Dyes and glutamates have been shown to affect your central nervous system and trigger headaches and fatigue. Plus, fast foods and fried foods are just hard to digest, which is hard on the body and mood.
Sugar is a stimulant. After eating it, you get a huge blood sugar spike that then plummets shortly after. This rollercoaster can affect your hormones, which can impact anxiety, worsening the symptoms and affecting the body’s ability to handle stress. Sugar also has a strong link to depression.
Foods to Include if You Suffer From Anxiety
This was a big one for me. A naturopath I saw recommended I start taking a magnesium supplement for a separate issue, but man, did it have an impact on my anxiety too! I have to admit that was an awesome side effect. Magnesium is often referred to as the relaxation mineral, and for good reason. It soothes sore muscles and also helps to calm our minds. Magnesium has been shown to have a strong link to anxiety levels and to act as an antidepressant in mice!
Eating magnesium-rich foods, such as black beans, spinach, and dark chocolate will help, but if you are very magnesium deficient, you might want to speak with your healthcare provider about taking a supplement like magnesium glycinate.
B12 & B-Complex
Vitamins B12 and B-Complex are vital for energy levels. Vitamin B12 plays a key role in function of the brain and nervous system, hence its effect on anxiety levels. It offers calming effects that can help balance mood. Plus, Vitamin B helps your immune system function correctly and aids in proper digestion.
Vitamin B can be found in food sources like eggs and wild caught salmon, or it can be taken in supplement form.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s are a critical part of a healthy diet. They can help improve cholesterol and several other issues. One role they play is to reduce inflammation, which can help the brain function better. It’s also suspected that omega-3 fatty acids improve moods and reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels. Research has also shown that omega-3’s may affect the functionality of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can play a critical role in anxiety.
Omega-3s can be found in fish and plant sources like flax seed.
While avoiding certain foods and adding in others is unlikely to cure anxiety, it can go a long way in reducing the symptoms and the impact anxiety plays on your body. If you experience anxiety or panic attacks, it might be worth giving these tips a shot. And combining them with other stress management tools can go a long way in calming your mind.