Anxiety disorders are among the most prevalent mental health illnesses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults over the age of 18, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Anxiety disorders encompass phobias, generalized anxiety and social anxiety. However, all anxiety disorders have one thing in common: persistent, excessive fear or worry in situations that are not threatening. The constant feelings of tension, worry, and nervousness can interfere with everyday life.
According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, rates of anxiety and depression, which often go hand in hand, tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first line of treatment is usually medication but there are several natural strategies you can try to relieve anxiety, says Healthline. Exercise and breathing techniques often help. You can also consume more brain-boosting foods that have been proven to ease anxiety too, say experts. Here are six science-backed foods and beverages to try:
1.Salmon. This fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which help regulate the calming neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Experts say that the fatty acids contained in salmon, EPA and DHA, are associated with lower rates of anxiety. These fatty acids work by reducing inflammation and preventing brain cell dysfunction common in people with anxiety. Vitamin D has also shown to be effective in reducing anxiety and depressive symptoms.
2. Chamomile. This herb that can be steeped into a calming tea has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help lower inflammation associated with anxiety, says Healthline. Several studies have found that people who drank chamomile extract as a tea regularly had significant reduction in anxiety symptoms.
3. Turmeric. Turmeric’s health benefits come mostly from curcumin, a chemical found in its root stalk, according to WebMD. Studies on curcumin have found that it could affect serotonin and dopamine, brain chemicals that control mood and behavior. Curcumin may also cause beneficial changes to the parts of your brain that respond to stress, and protect against damage to energy-producing structures in your brain cells.
4. Green tea. This popular beverage contains L-theanine, an amino acid that is believed to have positive effects on brain health while reducing anxiety. Green tea also contains epigallocatechin or ECGC, an antioxidant that promotes brain health. The combination of L-theanine and ECGC work synergistically to promote calmness and alleviate anxiety, according to studies.
5. Yogurt. The probiotics found in some types of yogurt may improve your well-being, including your mental health, according to several studies. In one study, individuals suffering from anxiety were better able to cope with stress when they consumed probiotic-rich yogurt.
6. Dark chocolate. This wonderful snack contains flavanols, such as epicatechin and catechin. These plant compounds operate as antioxidants, says Healthline, and may benefit brain function and have neuroprotective effects. Flavanols are said to increase blood flow to the brain and improve cell-signaling pathways. One study involving 13,626 participants found that people who consumed dark chocolate had much lower depressive symptoms compared to those who rarely ate dark chocolate. Because it is high in calories, dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation. Limit your indulgence to a 1 to 1.5-ounce serving at a time.
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