MEDITATION AND PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT TOOLS

Eat Your Way to Lowered Anxiety

Anxiety is part of life. You might feel anxious following a job loss, death in the family, or romantic uncertainty. The list of things that can cause anxiety is long, but fortunately, you can help support your body’s physiological response to anxious feelings with solid nutritional support.

What Causes Anxiety in the Body?

Anxiety is usually an interruption in the body’s ability to process emotions, and directly impacts the emotional processing centers in the brain, including the hippocampus, amygdala, hypothalamus, and thalamus. When we become too anxious, there is more activity happening in these areas, and less in the higher cognitive processing areas including the prefrontal cortex. This can impede our ability to make smart decisions and react to challenges with calm and assuredness.

9 Foods that Help Reduce Anxiety (and a Bonus)

There are foods that help to calm the fight-or-flight cascade of hormones that can increase anxiety. While you can take supplements, just eating foods that are naturally high in certain nutrients can help to boost activity in your whole brain and calm the limbic system. Try these in a well balanced diet to reduce stress and promote calm and happiness.

 

1. Foods High in Selenium

Studies have proven that just five weeks of eating adequate amounts of selenium can reduce anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. Just 100 mcg of selenium daily can do the trick. [1] Selenium can be found in:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Brown rice

2. Foods High in Omega 3s

Omega 3s help to protect the brain and gut, and help reduce anxiety and depression. These fatty acids work primarily by lowering inflammation. [2] They are neuroprotective and as a side benefit, help your skin, hair, and nails look amazing. In most American diets, an excess of Omega 6 fatty acids is consumed. There are ample vegetarian and vegan sources. Find Omega 3 fatty acids in foods like:


  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Walnuts
  • Perilla Oil
  • Ahi flower oil

3. Foods High in Magnesium

Almost everyone is magnesium deficient, and unfortunately so. Magnesium is responsible for thousands of physiological processes. When you don’t have enough of it, your mood is bound to suffer. [3] Find more magnesium in foods like:


  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, rainbow chard, etc.

4. Foods High in Vitamin D

There is ample evidence in clinical studies that Vitamin D directly impacts mood. Just look at places where the sun doesn’t come out as often, and you’ll find seasonal depressive disorder and many other incidences of anxiety and depression. The good news is that you can supplement Vitamin D easily. 


For a vegetarian source of Vitamin D, eat more mushrooms, but also spend time in the sun, as your skin can process and integrate Vitamin D directly from sun exposure. [4]

 

5. Foods High in Potassium

Potassium is considered a dietary electrolyte. It helps your body to stay hydrated and balanced. Without ample potassium, you may suffer from anxiety. Try the following foods to help boost your potassium levels:


  • Leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Peas

6. Foods High in Zinc

Sub-optimal zinc levels are associated with anxiety and depression, especially in older populations. [5] Get more zinc by eating:


  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Beans

7. Foods High in Polyphenols

Foods that are high polyphenols are going to protect your brain and hormonal regulation so that you experience less anxiety. [6] 


Polyphenols include flavonoids, tannic acid, and ellagitannin, which have been used traditionally as dyes for garments. These ar what give plants their bright colors, and adaptive qualities to live in drought, flooding, or when attacked by pesky bugs. They are essentially a plant’s immune system, and thus transfer into your body to boost your own. 


Polyphenols have both anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory qualities. Try foods like:


  • Cloves
  • Cocoa 
  • Black beans
  • White beans
  • Organic extra virgin olive oil
  • Blueberries
  • Black currants

8. Foods High in Curcumin

Curcumin, found predominantly in the spice turmeric, but in other roots, is excellent for lowering stress and anxiety due to its anti-inflammatory qualities. You can also find curcumin in ginger. Ideally, if you take the two together with black pepper, the helpful constituents of these spices are more bioavailable. 

 

9. Foods High in Theanine 

Green tea is famous for having high theanine levels, but you can also try black tea, white, tea, and oolong tea to boost theanine levels. Theanine lowers cortisol levels, and reduces anxiety and stress. It can also increase serotonin, a feel-good chemical that makes you feel at ease. [7] 


Bonus: Drink More Water

Drinking more water can impact your mood positively. Staying hydrated allows a host of good physiological reactions in your body and brain, while also flushing out toxins, and keeping your gut healthy, and both directly connect to your mood. 

 

 

Learn more about foods that help you be more aware and conscious in my book Cellular Activation:

 

 

[1] Benton, D., & Cook, R. (1991). The impact of selenium supplementation on mood. Biological Psychiatry, 29(11), 1092-1098. https://doi.org/10.1016/0006-3223(91)90251-g


[2] Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K., Belury, M. A., Andridge, R., Malarkey, W. B., & Glaser, R. (2011). Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: A randomized controlled trial. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 25(8), 1725-1734. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2011.07.229


[3] Pickering, G., Mazur, A., Trousselard, M., Bienkowski, P., Yaltsewa, N., Amessou, M., Noah, L., & Pouteau, E. (2020). Magnesium status and stress: The vicious circle concept revisited. Nutrients, 12(12), 3672. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12123672


[4] Review for "Vitamin D supplementation improves anxiety but not depression symptoms in patients with vitamin D deficiency". (2020). https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.1760/v1/review3



[5] Anbari-Nogyni, Z., Bidaki, R., Madadizadeh, F., Sangsefidi, Z. S., Fallahzadeh, H., Karimi-Nazari, E., & Nadjarzadeh, A. (2020). Relationship of zinc status with depression and anxiety among elderly population. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN, 37, 233-239. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnesp.2020.02.008


[6] Lin, K., Li, Y., Toit, E. D., Wendt, L., & Sun, J. (2021). Effects of Polyphenol supplementations on improving depression, anxiety, and quality of life in patients with depression. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.765485


[7] Hidese, Ogawa, Ota, Ishida, Yasukawa, Ozeki, & Kunugi. (2019). Effects of L-theanine administration on stress-related symptoms and cognitive functions in healthy adults: A randomized controlled trial. Nutrients, 11(10), 2362. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102362



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