By Karine Patel, London Dietitian for Dietitian Fit & Co
Specifically, yogurt that contains live probiotics, which are a type of healthy bacteria. Although further research is needed, there is some emerging evidence to show how probiotics can support the gut-brain-axis, which is the link between the gastrointestinal tract and our brain. Having a higher level of healthy gut bacteria could be linked to improved mental health, such as by increasing production of ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which is mainly found in our digestive system.
Brazil nuts are particularly high in the mineral called selenium, which has been linked to reducing inflammation. Inflammation can often be heightened for those who have anxiety and other mood disorders, so increasing our intake of selenium may reduce risk of developing anxiety. However, it is important not to consume too much selenium – even 3-4 brazil nuts a day will provide you with more than the recommended 400mcg dose.
Eggs provide the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to make the neurotransmitter serotonin. As mentioned, serotonin plays a key role in our central nervous system and mood. Other good sources of tryptophan include turkey, cheese and soy products. Egg yolks are also a good source of Vitamin D, and many people who experience anxiety and depression also have been shown to have lower Vitamin D levels. To support Vitamin D levels, supplementation and sunlight exposure are generally recommended to meet requirements, though please speak to your healthcare professional first.
Dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonols. Some research suggests that flavonols may enhance mood and increase blood flow to the brain and make you less anxious. It is recommended to consume chocolate with at least 70% cocoa.
These small fishes are full of omega-3 fatty acids called acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and they are also high in Vitamin D. These nutrients may help regulate brain chemical messengers dopamine and serotonin which have been associated with lower rate of depression and anxiety. Salmon and trout are a good substitute to sardines if these are too fishy for you.
Avocado is a good source of potassium, Vitamin B and Magnesium, which have all been linked to play a role in reducing anxiety symptoms. Potassium helps regulate processes with the brain and neurons, and a deficiency may cause nervousness and anxiety. Vitamin B plays a role in production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, and a lack of vitamin B may increase the risk of anxiety symptoms. Finally, magnesium is responsible for the body’s response to stress. Adequate intakes have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels.
We would like to highlight that food cannot treat anxiety and is not a substitute for other treatments. However, certain foods may help reduce severity of symptoms by supporting brain function and mental well-being, alongside medication and therapy.