23 Foods That Reduce Anxiety

You’ve probably heard the saying, “you are what you eat”, but research suggests “you feel what you eat” too. In fact, your diet can have a direct impact on your level of anxiety.

“Diets like the Mediterranean diet that include anti-inflammatory fats and emphasize vegetables, fruits, and limit refined grains, sugar, and processed foods can decrease incidence of anxiety,” explains registered dietitian Theresa Gentile, who is a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“I talk to clients about how much food impacts your mood,” adds Los Angeles-based marriage and family therapist Marina Braff. “When we are stressed out, we try to cut corners, our diet and nutrition tends to be the first thing to go. However, I’m sure you can think back on a time where you didn’t prioritize this and as a result the stress hit you harder.”

With nearly two-in-five adults feeling more anxious than they were this time last year, according to the The American Psychiatric Association, it can be a good time to consider the role your diet can play in your mental health. Of course, keep in mind that not all anxiety can be managed through lifestyle changes. If you’re experiencing any kind of mental health issue, it’s important to check in with your health care provider to explore options such as therapy or medication in addition to diet and lifestyle changes.

Ready to boost your mood? Try incorporating more of these foods that reduce anxiety into your diet:

Probiotic and Prebiotics: Kefir, Yogurt, Kimchi, Bananas, and Oats  

Some of the best foods to help reduce anxiety are probiotic foods like kefir, yogurts (with live, active cultures), and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and fermented vegetables. Prebiotic fibers that feed the probiotics—found in bananas, artichokes, asparagus, garlic, onions, barley, oats, and apples—help as well.

“Fruits, vegetables, fiber, and fermented foods alter the gut microbiome and positively affect psychiatric well-being by changing the gut peptides involved in the gut-brain axis and neurotransmitter synthesis,” explains Gentile. These foods help the gut produce feel-good chemicals such as as serotonin and dopamine that are directly connected to your brain and your mood.

“Ninety percent of your body’s serotonin is created in your gut so when your diet is out of whack it can contribute to digestive issues, which can then impact the functioning and production of serotonin,” adds Braff. “When you don’t have enough serotonin, you are more likely to feel anxious or depressed.”

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