Food has a profound biochemical impact on mood and resilience, says Lisa Nelson, MD, director of medical education at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. “Eating whole foods that keep blood-sugar levels steady and deliver a balance of macro- and micronutrients is incredibly stabilizing.” The following are dietary recommendations for managing anxiety:
• Get plenty of plant-based proteins, with an emphasis on beans (red, black, pinto, kidney). Beans are a great source of both fiber and antioxidants — two excellent inflammation fighters.
• Eat magnesium-rich foods, like almonds, spinach, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and avocados. Magnesium is essential to more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body that control everyday metabolic functions, including inflammation. (For more on this, see “Magnesium: Your Body’s Spark Plug“.)
• Take your B vitamins. Strong evidence links anxiety to deficiencies in B12 and B9 (folate), specifically. Foods high in B12 include organ meats (liver and kidney), as well as oysters, mussels, and mackerel. Good sources of folate include edamame, spinach, asparagus, lentils, and liver. (If you have a MTHFR genetic variation, you’ll want to supplement with methylfolate, says Aviva Romm, MD, author of The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution. For more on this, see “Follow the Folate“.)
• Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates, which can set you up for a vicious cycle of anxiety-promoting sugar spikes and crashes. To pacify a sugar craving, try dark chocolate. “You’ll get a little serotonin release but not enough to trigger a full-blown sugar high and resulting crash. Plus, the antioxidants fight inflammation,” says Nelson.
• Consume a range of high-quality carbohydrates, including brown rice, sweet potatoes, and squash. Fiber diversity is critical to helping intestinal flora manage cortisol and its cousin, cortisone, says Alan Christianson, NMD.