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Lately, we’ve been seeing many biochemists, registered dietitians, and even gastroenterologists referring to our gut as our “second brain.” This is because research shows an irrefutable link between how what we eat affects our brain chemistry. For example, did you know that the majority of serotonin (a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness) is produced in your gut?
Recently, I began talking to one of the registered dietitians who helps create the meal plans for my app and asked her what she thought about foods that could help reduce anxiety. And she had a ton of great advice – but before we go over it, a quick caveat. If you struggle with chronic depression and anxiety, please see a psychiatrist. That said, it certainly can only help to incorporate these foods into your diet as well!
Here is our list of go-to nutrients:
The first thing we want are foods rich in magnesium. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxer and can help you feel more relaxed. Look to incorporate avocado, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains, leafy greens, and bananas — which are all rich in magnesium — into your diet on a regular basis.
Fermented and fiber-rich foods can help combat anxiety by helping to support your microbiome (all those tiny little microbes that live in our gut). A healthy, strong microbiome is directly connected to overall health and supports functions ranging from immunity to metabolism and brain chemistry. Choose fermented foods like yogurt, tempeh, miso, kimchi, kefir, and cottage cheese to keep the good bugs flowing. And be sure to feed those little critters with plenty of fiber — so eat lots of fruits and vegetables!
Zinc also seems to be a big one. Studies show that people with diets low in zinc are prone to depression, and zinc is great for boosting your immune system. Foods rich in zinc include beef, lamb, oysters, shrimp, scallops, and mushrooms.
Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids can also help reduce anxiety. Ideally, we would add some fish into the mix here: wild salmon, pecans, flax seeds, walnuts, and sardines are all good sources of Omega 3 fatty acids!
You may notice these are all simply really healthy foods. Bottom line: a good diet has tremendous benefits across the board from immunity to digestion to anti-aging — and apparently even anti-anxiety!