Advice From A Harvard Medical Professor: Lessen Anxiety Through Diet

According to the Harvard Health Blog, various foods play a role in reducing anxiety.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorder in the United States, as approximately 18 percent of the population experience a form of this mental ailment. Although therapy and medication help many to manage their anxiety, diet may also play an important role to manage the symptoms of anxiety disorders. According to Dr. Uma Naidoo, many people may experience a decrease in their level of anxiety by incorporating certain foods, nutrients, and minerals into their diet.

Maintaining an even level of blood sugar helps to create the perception of calmness. Therefore, Dr. Naidoo recommends including complex carbohydrates into one's diet, as they are metabolized at a slower rate than simple carbohydrates found in processed foods. It’s also important to not skip meals, as that can lead to a drop in blood sugar, which can worsen the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

The lack of antioxidants is believed to be correlated with increased anxiety. In order to increase the amount of antioxidants in one’s diet, foods such as berries, nuts, and beans have been proven to have a high level of antioxidants. Various fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, kale, beets, apples, plums, and sweet cherries can also be consumed for a delicious antioxidant boost.

Specific foods have been shown to have an effect of anxiety levels, as well. Diets low in magnesium were shown to increase anxiety-related behaviors in mice, therefore, foods rich in magnesium, such as leafy greens, legumes, seeds, nuts, and whole grains may help to alleviate such behaviors. Food that contains a high level of zinc, such as cashews, beef, egg yolks, and oysters have been connected to decreased levels of anxiety. Omega-3 fatty acids, which have also been linked to improving depression, have demonstrated a connection to improved anxiety, as well. Probiotic-rich foods, such as sauerkraut, kefir, and pickles may help to alleviate symptoms related to social anxiety.

Although Dr. Naidoo stated that nutritional psychiatry is no substitute for other treatment, she believes the relationship between food, anxiety, and mood should not be ignored.