- 40 million adults have anxiety disorders.
- There are certain vitamins and minerals that have science backed evidence of lowering anxiety.
- Some foods include chocolate, spinach, and turkey.
In the US, anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults 18 and older. One way to treat your symptoms can be by adjusting your diet. Certain vitamins and minerals, like vitamin B12 and magnesium, have been scientifically proven to lower anxiety levels.
Here are 10 types of food that could reduce anxiety. Of course, it’s worth noting that food alone likely won’t cure your anxiety, and if you’re experiencing symptoms of an anxiety disorder, you should speak with your doctor or mental health professional.
Magnesium rich-foods, such as leafy greens and legumes, could lower anxiety.
A study published in 2012 in the journal Neuropharmacology identified a correlation between low-magnesium diets and higher anxiety levels in mice. To get enough magnesium in your diet, you can eat foods such as leafy greens, legumes (i.e., soybeans and peanuts), and whole grains.
Zinc, found in items like oysters and cashews, could reduce anxiety.
In a 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology, researchers reported that zinc reduced anxiety-like behaviours in male rats. Additionally, a small study by the Pfeiffer Treatment Center found that Zinc therapy may play a role in reducing anxiety symptoms.
Zinc is found naturally in foods like oysters, beef, and cashews. More research is needed to see what role – if any Zinc plays in reducing anxiety.
Foods high in calcium, like dairy products, can lower cortisol levels.
Calcium has been known to reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone associated with anxiety. According to an article published in Nutrition Research and Practice in 2012, researchers in Korea found an association between low-calcium diets and depression in middle-aged women.
Some good sources of this nutrient include dairy products such as milk and cheese, as well as green leafy vegetables like kale and collard greens.
The omega-3s in fatty fish can reduce the cellular inflammation that causes anxiety.
Neuroscience has proven that eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, can reduce the brain chemicals that spur anxiety.
In a Psychology Today article, Barry Sears, PhD, notes that omega-3s can combat cellular inflammation in the brain caused by spikes in arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid.
“[W]hen the brain becomes inflamed, its only protection is adequate levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. But what happens when the levels of omega-3 fatty acids are low in the brain? The answer is increased neuroinflammation and continual disruption of signalling between nerves,” Sears wrote.
Probiotic foods (such as sauerkraut) and prebiotic foods (such as whole grains) have been linked to reduce cortisol levels.
According to a 2015 study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, there’s a potential link between probiotics – foods containing live microorganisms that promote the health of “good” bacteria – and lowered levels of social anxiety. Items rich in probiotics range from pickles and sauerkraut to the fermented milk drink kefir.
Prebiotic foods, which can aid the balance of microorganisms in the gut, have also been correlated with lowered anxiety due to their ability to reduce cortisol levels. Examples include whole grains, bananas, and soybeans.
Avoid vitamin B12 deficiency, a cause of anxiety, by eating meat, poultry, and dairy products.
B vitamins affect how our brains produce chemicals, including those that regulate our mood. B12 is especially vital because it’s involved in maintaining the health of nerve and red blood cells and creating DNA. As a result, B12 deficiency can trigger psychiatric symptoms like anxiety and depression.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the top sources of B12 are clams and beef liver. This nutrient is also found in meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and some fortified foods, like breakfast cereals.
Turkey, eggs, and cheese contain tryptophan, which is vital in producing serotonin.
Tryptophan is an amino acid necessary for synthesizing serotonin, one of the neurochemicals that governs happiness. According to a 2014 study, there is a possible correlation between tryptophan intake and affective disorders. Researchers found that young adults who consumed more tryptophan in their diets displayed fewer depressive symptoms and experienced less anxiety.
Turkey is one of the best-known examples of a food rich in tryptophan. Other foods with high levels of the amino acid include eggs, cheese, and pumpkin seeds.
Oranges and other vitamin C-rich foods could alleviate anxiety.
Better known for its immune-boosting properties, vitamin C can also alleviate anxiety. In 2003, researchers in Germany illustrated that this nutrient can be useful for stress management. Their experiment entailed making test subjects give a public speech and solve maths problems. Half the subjects were given 1,000 mg of vitamin C. Those who didn’t take the vitamin displayed clear signs of stress such as increased levels of cortisol and higher blood pressure. More recently, a 2015 study found that vitamin C helped reduce stress levels among students.
Oranges are a common example of a vitamin C-rich food. Strawberries, broccoli, and kiwi also contain it.
Antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries and chocolate could be useful in treating anxiety.
Based on a study published in 2016 in the journal Current Neuropharmacology, antioxidants could be useful in treating anxiety and depression. Good sources of antioxidants range from blueberries to beans.
Chocolate, which contains antioxidants called flavanols, has also been linked to lowering stress levels.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.