What we put into our mouths on a daily basis not only affects our physical well-being, it can play a significant role in helping to manage our mental health, anxiety levels, and neurotic behavior. Research and studies suggest that the following foods and nutrients may help ease anxiety, manage stress and may even help to fight off depression.

If you feel like your nervous system is teetering on the edge, making a few simple dietary changes could have you feeling full of beans in no time (quite literally!)

Vitamin B12

B12 is needed when forming red blood cells - the same cells that carry oxygen through the body - and is an essential part of a healthy nervous system. It is also used in the formation of serotonin, a mood-boosting neurotransmitter, so it is no surprise that depression has been associated with low levels of B12.  B12 is found in shellfish, eggs, milk, cheese, red meat, and fish. Given that the food-based source of B12 is usually animal derived, B12 deficiency is quite common in vegans, vegetarians and those with the MTHFR genetic variant.  You can get B12 supplements but seek professional advice to ensure it is the right form of B12 for your body to be able to absorb.

Folate

Folate or vitamin B9, like B12, is utilized in the formation of red blood cells and affects neurotransmitters that impact mood. Modern day food processing has reduced the amount of natural folate present in our food which is why many products such as cereals and breads are fortified with the synthetic form of folate called folic acid. A lack of folate or an inability to effectively convert synthetic folic acid to its active form within the body can lead to decreased mental alertness, anxiety and depression.

Folate is found in green leafy vegetables (broccoli and spinach), beans, lentils and citrus.  It also can be taken as a supplement.

Tryptophan

This nonessential amino acid is used in serotonin synthetization.  Serotonin is a mood regulator and essential in producing healthy sleep. A lack of tryptophan may be linked to cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods and nighttime binge eating. Tryptophan is found in almost all protein-rich foods, namely nuts, seeds, tofu, cheese, red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, oats, beans, bananas, lentils, and eggs.

Iodine

Iodine is an important mineral that is required to keep the thyroid gland healthy. The thyroid gland controls almost every cell in the body by regulating metabolism, so if we are lacking in iodine this can affect brain function, mood and concentration.  

Rich sources of Iodine can be found in seaweed and sea vegetables, dulse flakes and iodine-fortified foods and salt.