6 Foods That Help Ease Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety is becoming an increasingly common complaint that currently affects millions of people. In my personal practice, I've worked alongside many clients who struggle with anxiety symptoms, I myself have experienced more constant anxiety symptoms in the past and have through a process of learning and consistent work been able to overcome them.
There are many important dietary and lifestyle adjustments that can be used in conjunction with one another to help reduce and successfully treat anxiety symptoms such as exercise, meditation, and quality sleep.
I will cover some of the science-backed food groups that you can begin to include in your diet today to help your body start to address the potential underlying deficiencies that can give rise to current anxiety symptoms.
Below are five food and drink groups that I’ve commonly incorporated into my coaching sessions that can provide anxiety relief. If you are just starting to experiment with a healthy diet, try to include at least one food from each group daily to help correct some of the potential hidden issues and as preventative care - luckily there are many foods that overlap! If you have any existing sensitivities to any of the foods listed, try another one that's discussed.
1. Leafy Greens
Most all of these vibrant greens contain magnesium, a plethora of B vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber.
Magnesium is known for having calming and relaxing effects on the muscular and nervous systems, and it can have an extremely positive effect on anxiety symptoms.
Other food sources of magnesium include seaweed, dark chocolate, and avocados.
2. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods naturally contain probiotics that directly influence the health of our microbiome. Researchers have been discovering more evidence that the health of our guts (our "second brain") and the bacteria present, have a direct impact on our mental, emotional, and hormonal health.
Our guts are home to over 100 million neurons and to 95% of the "feel good" hormone seratonin. Having more diversified and positive strains of bacteria can help improve your mood and ultimately decrease stress and anxiety.
There are plenty of fermented foods to buy at the store, or experiment with making at home, such as kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, olives, miso, or unsweetened plant-based yogurt. If you buy these products from the store, choose only from the refrigerated section where the foods are alive and unpasteurized. The same applies if you include dairy products in your diet - go for full fat, grass-fed, and organic options with yogurt and kefir.
3. Whole Grains
Whole grains contain tons of fiber, B vitamins, and tryptophan. Fiber is extremely helpful in helping to treat anxiety symptoms, because it can assist in dealing with some of the underlying causes of anxiety.
Fiber can also help normalize hormone levels, (which can be one cause of anxiety symptoms), by stabilizing blood sugar, reducing cortisol levels, and flushing out excess estrogens from the body.
Some wonderful whole-grain sources of fiber are quinoa, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, oats, and black and brown rice.
I advise my clients to try and generally consume more gluten-free grain options as much as possible, as many people have a food sensitivity to gluten.
4. Healthy Fats
Consuming plenty of healthy fats in your diet is vital for mental and emotional health. The brain is composed of mostly fat and needs a constant supply to continue to thrive.
Eating quality fats like Omega-3 fatty acids regularly can greatly reduce anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders due to their anti-inflammatory nature.
Some plant-based sources of healthy fats are avocados or cold-pressed avocado oil, coconuts, extra virgin & cold-pressed coconut and olive oils, nuts (e.g. walnuts and almonds), seeds (e.g. chia and flax seeds), olives, dark chocolate, and seaweed.
If you include meat and dairy in your diet, some clean sources of fat include grass-fed ghee and butter, yogurt, kefir, and cheese. Other good sources are pastured eggs, wild-caught fish and other seafood, and grass-fed or pastured meats.
All nuts and seeds also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that is the precursor to serotonin, and low levels of tryptophan contribute to generalized anxiety disorders and panic attacks. Try including a handful of raw, soaked or sprouted nuts and seeds into your diet daily.
Eating about 4 servings of fruit per day is recommended and for great reason: Fruits contain an abundance of antioxidants, B vitamins, and fiber.
B Vitamins are an extremely important tool in managing anxiety symptoms due to their important role in neurotransmitter function and brain health. B vitamin deficiencies are commonly linked to panic attacks, anxiety, and depression.
All berries contain the most antioxidants, and antioxidants ease the oxidative stress caused by environmental and dietary toxins. This can in turn have a positive impact on anxiety and other mood disorders.
Fruit is also another major source of fiber, which as discussed early, is extremely positive for managing cortisol, hormone, and blood sugar levels.
6. Herbal Teas
Another option that can greatly reduce anxiety symptoms, plus assist with other mood disorders, is drinking herbal and green tea.
Great teas for the daytime include:
Rooibos Tea: Recently prized for its positive effects on cortisol levels, Rooibos tea can have a positive impact on stress levels and therefore anxiety symptoms. This naturally decaffeinated tea normally tastes sweet, bright, and fruity.
Green Tea: A truly amazing addition to your daily routine. Green tea naturally contains L-Theanine, an amino acid present in the leaves that promotes alpha wave production in the brain. L-Theanine can enhance calmness, help balance moods, improve memory, increase concentration, and boost energy levels.
Great options for the evening:
Chamomile Tea: A wonderful option for bedtime, as it has calming and relaxing properties. Chamomile also helps to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Valerian Root Tea: One of my all-time favorites, as it can be a potent remedy for anxiety. Valerian is traditionally used as a sedative and therefore works wonderfully as a sleep aid, but those same calming properties can have a profound effect on the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Science is finding out that valerian root increases GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), a chemical in the brain that helps calm anxiety and balance nerve cells. These are the same effects that drugs like Xanax and Valium produce in the body, just without having to take any medication!
One precaution is to avoid mixing melatonin and valerian root together as sleep aids, as they could become too sedative.
Again, if you’ve just started on your path with incorporating healing foods, try to add at least one food from each group into your diet daily to help decrease and ease anxiety symptoms. Each one of us deserves true health, and these beautiful and healing foods are here to help us on our path there.