For those of you who suffer from anxiety, you know that symptoms can significantly interfere with your day-to-day life. From avoiding social situations to insomnia, anxiety affects all aspects of your wellbeing. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly common disorder, affecting 1.3 million adult Australians.
Of course, there are medications in which you can source, however, many yield a number of negative side effects. Instead, why not focus on more natural alternatives? Your diet influences every aspect of your health, including neurological functions. Could the foods you eat influence your anxiety levels?
How does anxiety influence the human brain?
Before we focus on the foods in which can boost mental health, it’s important to understand why anxiety occurs. Although there a wide range of external factors, increased anxiety can be viewed from a neurological level, as brain chemicals react to various stimuli — resulting in a psychological and emotional reaction.
Although highly complex, the amygdala plays a key role in terms of emotion, memory, and fear. For those who suffer from anxiety, the amygdala in these individuals may be overly sensitive, reacting with a high stress response. In terms of biochemical factors, neurotransmitters may be imbalanced, especially GABA and serotonin.
Consume These Five Foods to Target Your Anxiety
There isn’t one ‘magic’ food that can target anxiety levels, although there are a number of foods that influence neural pathways and neurotransmitters involved in symptoms of anxiety. Although anxiety occurs due to a combination of psychological, biological and environmental factors, focus on consuming more of the following foods.
Rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, wild-caught salmon offers a range of highly beneficial nutrients. Known as ‘brain food,’ salmon has a positive effect on various structures and functions in the brain. A serving offers your body the omega-3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA. More importantly, it’s believed that low concentrations of DHA are associated with low serotonin levels in the brain.
Throughout the literature, salmon has also been shown to reduce neuroinflammation, which is believed to be a key contributing factor within anxiety disorders. In fact, regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids are said to decrease stress-induced cytokines — producing anti-inflammatory effects, reducing anxiety.
Organic, free-range eggs are an excellent source of protein, as well as a number of other beneficial vitamins and minerals. Generally grouped within B-complex vitamins, choline is a nutrient which is abundant in eggs. Since choline is the precursor to acetylcholine, it is also essential for cognitive functioning.
Considering a link has been found between low choline levels and anxiety, eggs could target a choline deficiency. A number of studies have found an inverse relationship between choline intake and symptoms of anxiety. Meaning, low choline levels are associated with greater anxiety levels.
- Nuts and Seeds
A variety of nuts and seeds offer plenty of protein and nutrients, as well as tryptophan — the amino acid that is converted to serotonin, influencing re-uptake. Some of the best sources of tryptophan include, but are not limited to pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, cashews, almonds, and pecans.
These varieties of nuts and seeds are also packed with magnesium, a mineral known for its ability to nourish and calm the nervous system. When consuming 100 grams of pumpkin seeds, for instance, you not only benefit from 18 grams of fibre, but 65 percent of your daily recommended magnesium.
- Dark Chocolate
Who doesn’t like chocolate? Any remedy that includes chocolate sounds too good to be true, right? Well, not exactly — as chocolate that contains a minimum of 80% cocoa is what you’re aiming for, not the type of chocolate that’s full of marshmallows and caramel.
Like nuts, dark chocolate contains tryptophan, resulting in more balanced serotonin levels. Within one study, published in the Malaysian Journal of Psychiatry, it was found that when dark chocolate was given to cancer patients, it significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, in comparison to a control group.
- Green Tea
Green tea has been utilised for centuries, based on its wide range of health benefits. Although all varieties of tea offer benefits, green tea is packed with antioxidants known as polyphenols. Based on its ability to target free radicals, green tea has been heavily researched in terms of cancer, however, it also promotes positive effects on the mind.
Green tea offers your body L-theanine, an amino acid which promotes relaxation. It’s also known to enhance positive mood and yield neuroprotective properties. Along with a balanced diet and deep breathing exercises, green tea is an excellent addition to an all-natural anti-anxiety treatment plan.
Be more mindful of what you eat, as the foods you consume influence both your mental and physical health. Consume a balanced diet, full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds, benefiting from the array of nutrients these whole foods provide.