How your diet can influence anxiety levels: Foods to eat and those to steer clear of

Experts have revealed which foods can help reduce anxiety
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Anxiety is a prevalent issue affecting numerous individuals. However, there are several strategies to alleviate symptoms, including minor dietary modifications.

Anxiety is a sense of discomfort, such as worry or fear, that can range from mild to severe, according to the NHS. Anxiety is the primary symptom of various conditions, including panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder (social phobia), reports WalesOnline.

The approach of being more mindful of what you eat may not be effective for every individual. However, research has shown evidence that altering your dietary patterns could assist in easing anxious thoughts and provide support to the brain.

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Foods that can increase anxiety

Coffee: As coffee is packed full of caffeine, which is a stimulant, it can get your heart and mind racing. For people who suffer from anxiety, drinking coffee could heighten symptoms and they may start to feel restless.

Excessive caffeine intake can replicate or exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Those dealing with anxiety triggered by caffeine should cut back on or eliminate their caffeine intake.

A 2021 study found caffeine, at doses roughly equivalent to five cups of coffee, induces panic attacks in a large proportion of patients with panic disorders. Caffeine also increases anxiety in such patients, as well as among healthy adults at these doses.

Processed foods: It is no secret that processed food is unhealthy and bad for you, but it could make anxiety worse. As comforting and delicious as processed foods may be to eat, it can trigger inflammation in the body. These foods also lack the nutrients needed for healthy gut and brain function.

Research shows eating excessive amounts of processed meat, fried food, refined cereals, candy, pastries, and high-fat dairy products can increase the likelihood of experiencing anxiety and depression.

Foods that can reduce anxiety

Green tea: Green tea is packed full of an amino acid called L-theanine, which has been shown to help reduce anxiety. In a 2017 study, researchers found students who drank green tea experienced consistently lower levels of stress than students who didn't.

Pumpkin seeds: These are a great source of magnesium, which has been proven to help control cortisol. Cortisol is crucial in managing stress levels. It is vital to maintain a proper cortisol balance for overall well-being.

Complex carbohydrates: Quinoa, beans, starchy vegetables and oats take longer for your body to digest, which can in turn prevent sugar crashes. These types of carbs can also stimulate serotonin, which helps to regulate mood. Low levels of serotonin are linked to depression.

Fermented food: The likes of Kefir, kimchi and kombucha can all help keep your gut and brain happy - poor gut health has been linked with poor mental health. A 2022 study found consuming fermented food has been associated with lowering depressive and anxiety symptoms.

Blueberries: These berries contain anthocyanins, which are a class of water-soluble flavonoids widely present in fruits and vegetable. They can help reduce neuroinflammation, which is linked to high anxiety levels.

Fatty fish: Brain inflammation has been associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression. This is why consuming omega-3 oils, which have anti-inflammatory properties and can be found in oily fish, has been shown to alleviate anxiety symptoms by as much as 20%.

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