For approximately 31% of Americans, anxiety can manifest itself as a debilitating disorder at some point in their life — women are almost twice as likely as men to develop one, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Nearly anyone would admit they’re overworked, stressed, exhausted, and burnt out — but changing what’s physically on our plates may help us feel so much better.
There’s a growing body of evidence suggesting pathways in your gut may affect mental health and anxiety symptoms, adding weight to the role that the gut plays as a bodyguard to the rest of your immune and neurological systems. In addition to adequate therapy and treatments prescribed by your care provider, a wholesome diet can help boost the natural prowess of your GI tract and could serve as yet another way to help regular your mood. A large meta-analysis of randomized control trials published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 2019 found that adopting a healthier diet significantly reduced depressive symptoms associated with anxiety disorders — and the research also suggested that women especially reaped significant benefits in dietary interventions. Placing an emphasis on veggies, fruit, 100% whole grains, nuts, seeds, and unsweetened dairy products may benefit us in multiple ways at the biochemical level.
But if you’re wondering about those CBD edibles and drinks you’re suddenly seeing everywhere, they may not help as much as you may think. There’s insufficient reliable evidence regarding CBD dosing, safety, and the effectiveness for health conditions — and, technically, CBD is still considered illegal when used in food and beverages, until the Food and Drug Administration adds CBD to the “generally recognized as safe” list. According to FDA experts, CBD could potentially harm you by causing livery injury, affecting other prescribed drugs you may be taking, and could also be contributing to male reproductive toxicity.
Another factor to consider: Your body can use only a fraction (less than 20%) of the CBD it digests, not to mention the fact that a 2017 study found that 26 percent of CBD products tested in a randomized trial contained less CBD than advertised. Products made with CBD, just like other processed offerings, may contain ingredients that’ll make anything taste better, including added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat-filled oils.
While there’s no magic food that can “cure” or “treat” anxiety and depression (talk to your doc if you’re concerned), there are a few shifts that we can make in our daily food choices that have been studied for mood-boosting properties. Assuming we all want to eat food that’s delicious, nutritious, and safe, try more of the following picks instead.
*With additional reporting by Jaclyn London MS, RD, CDN