How the Foods We Eat Can Help Improve Our Anxiety

Doctors and dieticians are beginning to appreciate more about how the nutritional properties of the foods we eat affect the brain. There is a clear and important connection between the brain and the gut; some researchers are now referring to the gut as the second brain. They now know when essential nutrients are deficient, there is a direct effect on the production of neurotransmitters and brain chemistry that can increase anxiety-related behaviours.

Here are some foods to start eating to help with your anxiety and stress today: –

1. Asparagus

Studies going back to the 1960s indicate that many people who suffer from anxiety and depression have shown a folate deficiency. Asparagus is one vegetable that contains a valuable amount of this mood-boosting nutrient. One portion provides two-thirds of your daily recommended folate value.

Try adding asparagus spears to your meals, or even eat as a snack, dip the spears into salsa, hummus or other dips.

2. Avocado

 Avocados are rich in B vitamins and healthy fat; all the B vitamins have positive effects on the nervous system. However, deficiencies in these stress-relieving vitamins have been linked to increased anxiety in people. Avocados also contain vitamin E, which is important for vision, reproduction, and maintaining healthy skin. It also widens the blood vessels. Helps with cognition and the formation of red blood cells. Vitamin E is fat-soluble; it is found in foods with high-fat content like nuts and avocados.

When you next want a chocolate dessert, try blending an avocado, some cacao or cocoa powder and sugar or stevia to taste, chill in the fridge, you will be surprised how good it tastes.

3. Blueberries

Our bodies crave vitamin C when stressed or anxious. Vitamin C is an antioxidant; this helps repair and protect our cells and provide anxiety relief. Blueberries are full of this vitamin and antioxidants.

When you are craving a sugary snack, reach for blueberries instead of sugary sweets and snacks. Sugar is not good for our brains; it causes the brain to work at a sub-optimal level, creating a larger risk of anxiety and depression symptoms. The vitamin C in blueberries will also give your immune system a boost.

4. Turkey

Turkey contains tryptophan, this is nutrient that helps you to sleep. Tryptophan is an amino acid that the body needs to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, which helps regulate sleep and mood.  With this in mind it may help reduce anxious feelings.

Instead of having a takeaway of KFC, try cooking a turkey breast with vegetables as a more healthy option and help your anxiety at the same time.

5. Almonds

Magnesium found in almonds and other nuts may also be effective for helping anxiety-related symptoms. Insufficient magnesium also reduces the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.  12 almonds contain approximately 19% of our daily recommended magnesium. Magnesium can also be found in seeds, legumes, and avocados.

Instead of snacking on biscuits high in trans fats, which will make your anxiety worse and increase the risk of depression, eat a handful of nuts and gain from healthy fats and fibre; these will improve your gut health. Add some dried fruit or dark chocolate chips if you need some sweetness.

6. Yoghurt

Yoghurt is a fermented food; these foods can help your anxiety too.  There is a link between eating fermented and probiotic foods and the reduction of social anxiety.  Greek and plain yoghurt are best; they contain live active cultures, which is the nutrient that will help your anxiety.  Other probiotic foods: pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha, and miso.

For breakfast swap the milk with yoghurt with your cereal or have plain yoghurt with fresh fruit.

7. Kale (or Arugula)

Research has found having a lower antioxidant level is linked to anxiety symptoms. Any dark leafy greens like kale are

high in beta carotene, antioxidants, and vitamin C.  These boost our antioxidant levels and help our brains function optimally.

Add kale to your salad; if you do not like the bitter taste, have it as a cooked vegetable, or add to an omelette, soup, or a smoothie to hide the bitter taste.

8. Salmon

Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly effective when it comes to foods that help with anxiety. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in foods like salmon, chia seeds, soybeans, and walnuts, as well as cold-pressed olive oil. The correct dietary fats are essential to our brain health. Replacing red meat with fish and other omega-3 foods will help support a healthy brain-gut microbiome.

Consider having salmon instead of steak to help keep your cortisol and adrenaline from spiking when you are feeling stressed.

Experiment with these foods to see if your anxiety improves.

Links to more information on anxiety.

17 Affirmations to help cal your anxiety

Anxiety and Exercise

The effect of anxiety on your body

How mindfulness and meditation can help your anxiety

How trapped emotions cause distress, pain and muscle tension in our bodies

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