Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the U.S. In fact, it's estimated that roughly 40 million Americans are affected by anxiety every year. While conventional treatments include psychotherapy and medications, more and more people are turning toward lifestyle changes to manage better anxiety, including changing their diets. But does the anti-anxiety diet work?
It all starts with a balanced diet
It's a no-brainer that what you eat can affect how you feel. A diet high in refined sugars, saturated fats, and simple carbohydrates increase inflammation in the body, causing you to feel anxious, depressed, and sluggish. Healthy foods, such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and unsaturated fats decrease inflammation, helping to regulate your mood and fueling your body with consistent energy.
The Anxi-Anxiety Diet promotes explicitly eating foods rich in certain vitamins and minerals to help combat anxiety symptoms. These foods include:
- Complex carbohydrates, like whole-grain bread, quinoa, brown rice, and whole wheat pasta. Complex carbohydrates boost the neurochemical serotonin that helps to calm your mind.
- Zinc found in foods such as cashews, oysters, beef, and egg yolks, which has been linked to lowered anxiety.
- Omega-3 fatty acid foods, such as salmon, flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms.
- Probiotics, like yogurt, kefir, and kombucha help to regulate GABA, dopamine and serotonin, decreasing anxiety.
- Anxi-oxidants found in most fresh fruits and vegetables reduce inflammation in the body, combatting anxiety.
- Magnesium, which is in eggs, Swiss chard, and lentils, and avocados, is a calming mineral that promotes relaxation.
- Tryptophan, which can be found in turkey, seeds, beans, and nuts, is an amino acid that helps produce serotonin in the brain that helps regulate sleep and moods.
- B vitamin-rich foods, such as beef, almonds, and avocados, reduce anxious feelings.
Incorporating more of these foods into your diet helps to reduce long-term anxiety symptoms.
It's also about what you don't eat
Though the Anti-Anxiety Diet emphasizes eating certain foods to manage anxiety symptoms, it also encourages you to avoid certain foods, such as:
- Alcohol. It's a depressant that can worsen anxiety symptoms. Alcohol causes spikes and dips in blood sugar, dehydration, and impaired brain function, all of which negatively affect your mood.
- Refined and processed foods. Sugar and refined carbs cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a huge drop, which can severely impact your mood.
- Caffeine. It's a stimulant that affects your nervous system, increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. Numerous studies have shown that caffeine can lead to nervousness, sweating, and shaking, and it can even induce panic attacks.
Avoiding the above foods can help to decrease anxiety symptoms over time.
So, does the Anti-Anxiety Diet work?
There's substantial evidence that suggests changing your diet can significantly affect anxiety symptoms. But most mental health professionals agree that following the Anxi-Anxiety Diet is not an adequate substitute for mental health treatment. To successfully combat anxiety, you should implement a combination of lifestyle and diet changes, professional counseling, and possibly medications. Remember that it takes times for anxiety symptoms to become less severe.