Natural Foods for Anxiety: Can They Help?
Eating natural foods for anxiety is one of the best things we can do for our brain to reduce all types of anxiety. Not only does nutrition in certain food help reduce anxiety, but healthy, natural foods keep the brain running smoothly so anxiety stays away. Feeding your brain natural foods for anxiety is a long-term strategy for improved mental health and wellbeing.
Of course, proper nutrition doesn’t help anxiety by itself. It’s a component of a strategic approach to anxiety management. The most effective way to get rid of anxiety is to eat well, change thought patterns and emotional reactions to stressors, and create new actions and behaviors. This multi-tiered approach to mental health is what it takes to reduce anxiety. Natural foods are a key component of this anxiety-beating strategy.
Natural Foods for Anxiety and the Brain
Natural foods can help anxiety. How, though, do they do it? Natural foods give the brain what it needs to do its job.
The entire brain is involved in our experience of anxiety. This abbreviated list highlights some of the ways the brain and anxiety are intertwined:
- The neocortex/prefrontal cortex is involved in anticipating and planning actions, such as ways to avoid anxiety
- The limbic system is the emotional area of the brain and signals us to feel anxious whether or not there is something to fear
- The reptilian brain is our fight-or-flight center, and in an anxious brain, it’s almost constantly stimulated
- Brain structures (amygdala, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, hippocampus, and brain stem) create hormones and neurotransmitters like cortisol, serotonin, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), dopamine, and others; if these aren’t present in the right amounts, we can experience any form of anxiety.
This brief overview only touches on part of what the brain does and how it can cause, contribute to, or worsen anxiety. The takeaway isn’t memorizing terms of neurology or the working of the brain but is to see that the human brain is behind a lot of anxiety. The bran can only operate on the fuel and nutrients we give it.
When we feed the brain processed and refined junk foods (including beverages), we don’t give it what it needs to work well. The brain doesn’t get enough of the good nutrients, and it also receives food that can make it ill.
Therefore, natural foods for anxiety can help a great deal.
Finding Natural Foods for Anxiety
When you’re already dealing with anxiety and stress, piling one more thing on your plate can be overwhelming. Do you have to worry about what to eat? Absolutely not.
Natural foods are foods that aren’t refined and processed, with added sugars (real or artificial), and full of saturated fat or trans fats. They’re foods that are as close to their natural, original state as possible.
A grilled or baked chicken breast is healthier for the brain than chicken nuggets. Slicing a sweet potato, drizzling it with olive oil, and baking it creates French fries that the brain needs and craves; contrarily, fries from a fast food place are almost fully devoid of nutrients and full of salt and the wrong kind of fat.
Natural food doesn’t, however, mean extreme foods. You don’t have to forage for exotic mushrooms on a mountaintop to give your brain natural foods for anxiety (unless, of course, you like to do that).
Think balance, taste, and convenience. Strive for a steady and balanced stream of nutrients, choose things you like, and pick things that are easy to shop for rather than anxiety-provoking and stressful.
For fighting anxiety, the brain needs specific nutrients to help it operate smoothly. Natural foods for anxiety contain these nutrients:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Complex Carbohydrates
- Low-Glycemic Foods (in addition to complex carbs)
- B Vitamins
Lean meats, fatty fish, fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are excellent sources of the nutrients that keep the brain running well and anxiety-free.
Natural Foods: Beverages Count, Too
Sodas, fruit juices, and other sugary drinks cause fluctuations in blood sugar and anxiety spikes. Unstable blood glucose levels contribute significantly to anxiety.
Also, these drinks can be dehydrating when they contain caffeine (and caffeine can induce anxiety on its own). Dehydration is a culprit behind mental- and physical health problems, including anxiety.
It’s important to drink water, a natural food, throughout the day. This simple addition to your healthy lifestyle can help your anxiety.
Do natural foods for anxiety help your anxiety? They’re not a cure by themselves, but they most definitely help.
Peterson, T. (2021, December 21). Natural Foods for Anxiety: Can They Help? , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, November 30 from https://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety/food-and-anxiety/natural-foods-for-anxiety-can-they-help