Anxiety is not necessarily caused by what you eat. But that doesn't mean that millions of people aren't contributing to their anxiety every day by eating foods that create anxiety symptoms while avoiding foods that may fight anxiety.
The truth is that your diet does matter. What you eat affects how you feel, and how you feel is anxious. It stands to reason that changing your diet to one that is made for those living with anxiety can be a valuable part of treating your anxiety symptoms.
How to Create An Anti-Anxiety Diet
"Eating healthier" is a phrase that's thrown around a lot, but in the case of anxiety, healthy eating really does make a difference. Eating more vegetables and staying away from unhealthy burgers really will keep your anxiety in check.
It starts by avoiding foods that may contribute to your anxiety symptoms. If you really want to create a diet for anxiety, remove or moderate all of the following:
- Fried Foods Fried foods are difficult to digest, have little nutritional content, and contribute to heart struggles. It's very difficult to reduce your anxiety if your body is poorly processing the food you consume.
- Alcohol Set aside the fact that drinking alcohol can cause you to do crazy things that create more anxiety in your life, alcohol itself is terrible for your body. It dehydrates you, it throws off your hormone and nutritional balance, and it can cause physical symptoms from the toxins that trigger anxiety attacks.
- Coffee Excess coffee is a known anxiety stimulant. In moderation (ie, once a day in the morning), it may not trigger anxiety in most people, but the more you drink the more you increase your risk. Coffee also creates a rapid heartbeat and some sensations that may create panic attacks.
- Dairy Products Dairy products aren't inherently bad for you, but in excess they may heighten your adrenaline levels and contribute to a more anxious state. Moderation is the key here, and if you find after consuming dairy products you feel more anxious, cut back.
- Refined Sugars Sugar in fruit isn't too bad. White sugar in desserts is. Sugar, like caffeine, stimulates your body in a way that can create a jitteriness that exacerbates anxiety symptoms.
- Acid Forming Foods Foods like yogurt, pickles, eggs, sour cream, wine, and liver are all acid creating foods, and there are reasons to believe that these foods drop magnesium levels. Magnesium is a cause or contributor of anxiety in many of those suffering from anxiety symptoms, so cutting back on acid forming foods is important.
Avoiding these foods is unlikely to cure anxiety, but it will help, especially if you find that you over-consume some type of food on this list. Remember, most foods can still be eaten in moderation, but healthier eating is still a very important part of a healthy anxiety diet.
How to Treat Anxiety
Avoiding bad foods is a great start, but it's not going to do it on its own.
Click here to take my 7 minute anxiety test, and find out how to beat your anxiety forever.
Foods to Eat That Weaken Your Anxiety
Most people know there are foods to avoid, but what about foods to eat? There are several foods that may reduce your anxiety symptoms. Remember, healthy eating leads to healthy hormonal functioning, which leads to an improved sense of well-being. So the better you eat, the better your anxiety will be. Good foods include:
- Fresh Fruit Your body does need carbs and sugar, it just doesn't need refined sugars. Fresh fruit has sugar that can be converted to energy, and provides necessary nutrients as well. Blueberries and peaches may be especially advantageous.
- Vegetables Of course, vegetables are arguably even more important, especially for those with anxiety. Vegetables are rich in fiber, and many of the vitamins that those with anxiety deplete regularly.
- Water A tremendous percentage of the population is regularly dehydrated because they do not drink nearly enough water. Dehydration nearly always leads to anxiety, which is why it's crucial that you consume enough water regularly.
- Tryptophan Rich Foods Foods rich in tryptophan are very effective at reducing anxiety. They have a natural relaxation component, and may increase your metabolism as an added bonus. Oats, soy, poultry, and sesame seeds all have a fair amount of tryptophan.
- Magnesium Rich Foods As much as 25% of the country or more is magnesium deficient, and magnesium plays a role in over 300 different processes within the body. It's a crucial vitamin that few people get, so magnesium rich foods like black beans and tofu are very important.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids Research into Omega 3's is still being conducted, but there is some evidence that Omega-3 is important for depression and anxiety. Omega-3's can be found in fish, flax seed, and winter squash.
Eating these foods aren't going to cure your anxiety, but they should reduce your anxiety symptoms and make it easier for an effective anxiety treatment to work. Eating healthy does have an effect on your ability to handle anxiety, so altering your diet to include better foods for anxiety is important.
Creating a Diet to Improve Anxiety - And More
Unless you improve your diet, you're making it harder to reduce anxiety. Anxiety isn't directly linked to diet, but your diet is a contributing factor to both the experience and the severity. Since eating a healthier diet is also important for your health and your self-esteem, changing your diet when you suffer from anxiety makes a great deal of sense. Then you can pair your anxiety diet up with an effective treatment technique.
I've helped thousands of people find the anxiety treatment that's right for them. Start with my seven minute anxiety questionnaire. It's a test designed to get an idea of what you're suffering from and recommend treatment choices that will help you cope in the short and long term.
Author: Micah Abraham, BSc Psychology, last updated Sep 28, 2017.