Approximately 7.3% of the global population is affected by anxiety disorders, and diet is noted as a modifiable risk factor in their aetiology. In a recent cross-sectional study, Sadeghi et al recruited 3,172 Iranian participants aged 18- 55 to determine the benefits a Mediterranean diet could have on psychological health. Their findings highlight an inverse association between a strong adherence to the Mediterranean diet principles and odds of experiencing anxiety, depression or psychological distress – in particular, they noted that a higher intake of vegetables and fruit was most successful. In contrast, participants with a higher intake of grains had a greater prevalence of psychological concerns.
In addition to dietary and lifestyle interventions available, several nutrients help to calm the nervous system and nourish a stressed body and mind. Some of my favourites include:
When anxious, your body actively eliminates magnesium, which is a catch 22, as a magnesium deficiency actually leads to releasing more stress hormones. Ensure you have healthy levels of magnesium inhibits the stress response. When buy a magnesium supplement look for one where the form of magnesium is chelated with an amino acid.
B vitamins are integral to the health and functioning of the nervous system. They are important cofactors in the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters including GABA, dopamine and serotonin, and are required for adrenal cortex function and steroid hormone synthesis.
Essential fatty acids (EFA)
Disorders of mental health such as depression and other mood disorders have been associated with low intake of essential fatty acids, in particular docohexanoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) which are found in high amounts in fish oil. Studies show EPA and DHA reduce inflammation in our body which benefits our brain chemicals linked to mood.
Check out how to incorporate some of these nutrients in yummy recipes here:
Note: always check with a natural healthcare practitioner to ensure any natural medicines are safe to take alongside pharmaceutical medications and if suitable for you.
Reference: Sadeghi O, Keshteli AH, Afshar H, et al. Adherence to Mediterranean dietary pattern is inversely associated with depression, anxiety and psychological distress. Nutritional Neuroscience 2019:1-12.
Author: Marie Holland, Clinical Nutritionist. Being a mum of three, she has seen first-hand what effects small changes to our diet can make to our children's behaviour and health. She can provide you with evidence-based nutritional information and support which is tailored to your unique lifestyle, goals and circumstances, along with making it simple and sensible.Find out more about her work HERE.