Most of us have experienced anxiety at some point or another. In fact, more than 40 million Americans experience anxiety, and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, anxiety disorders are the top mental health disorder in the U.S. While these feelings are far from fun, not all anxiety is bad! The problem occurs when feelings of situational anxiety turn chronic.
Good news — we’ve got yummy ways to help support an overall feeling of balance and possibly even boost mood, and who better for the job than antioxidants? Think of antioxidants for anxiety as brain nourishment. While these powerful molecules can help improve overall wellness, antioxidants play an important role in mental health, too.
Read on to find out the best antioxidant-rich foods for anxiety and how these nourishing foods can help promote a sense of ease in your day.
Note: While healthy eating and certain lifestyle habits can help provide us support during times of stress, if anxiety is interfering with your quality of life, reach out to a mental health professional or your primary care doctor. You don’t have to go it alone!
Can Food Help Anxiety?
Let’s face it, stress-induced anxiety is common. Living in a high-pressure society with never-ending to-do lists, tight deadlines, and not enough hours in the day can trigger a lot of angst. Luckily, your diet can help. Research suggests that there is a connection between the foods we eat and our mood, and there is data to suggest the need to focus on nutrient-dense whole foods to help keep us feeling more calm and less anxious.
A Closer Look at Antioxidants For Anxiety
While we often hear about the best nutrients for physical health (and even skin-supporting nutrients), we want to know more about foods for anxiety! So, we spoke with Lisa Mastela, Registered Dietician and founder of Bumpin Blends, for all you need to know.
“As a dietitian with a long history of nutrition research on oxidative stress, I could go on and on and ON about the fascinating biochemistry behind this connection. Antioxidant-rich foods — and, actually, foods that promote your body’s natural production of antioxidants as well — help your body “clear out” reactive oxygen species. ROS is essentially rust within the body. It builds up in every organ and causes damage — it’s a natural process of aging, but is unfortunately compounded by many factors in our daily lives,” says Mastela.
Antioxidants for Brain Health
In the brain, the damage caused by ROS is known to cause mood disorders. Thus, the sort of ROS “cleaning” from antioxidants can help prevent and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, says Mastela. Think of your brain as a car — if its engine is covered in rust, it’s not going to run well! But, if you clean the rust off with a scrub brush, it’ll run much smoother.
On the flip side, there’s a correlation factor as well — eating foods rich in antioxidants also means you’re eating whole, real plant-based foods, which will make you feel more energized, fit, and mentally sharp thanks to their polyphenols and fiber, says Mastela. And if you’re feeling sharp and energized, you’re likely going to be feeling less anxious! This newfound energy could even give you the motivation to move and exercise, thus improving mood!
Now that you know the benefits, here are the best expert-approved antioxidants for anxiety, plus yummy antioxidant-rich recipes to follow!
The Best 8 Antioxidant-Rich Foods for Anxiety
Antioxidants — specifically, anthocyanins — are the very compound that gives blueberries their vibrant blue color. In fact, blueberries are thought of as one of the top antioxidant-rich foods! This mighty fruit has been shown to directly increase antioxidant levels, helping to fight free radicals, the damaging molecules that contribute to increased anxiety.
When we’re feeling blue, chocolate always seems to offer some comfort — and there may be an (antioxidant-related) reason as to why! The flavanol-rich compounds in cacao contain neuroprotective benefits. The mood-boosting benefits of chocolate are science-backed. Try sprinkling some cacao nibs over your morning bowl of oatmeal or yogurt or add a tablespoon of unsweetened cacao powder to your smoothies for a healthy and delicious chocolate boost!
We couldn’t discuss antioxidant-rich foods for anxiety without mentioning turmeric! While turmeric is known for its anti-inflammatory powers, its antioxidant properties are just as impressive. Curcumin, the bioactive compound found in turmeric, has been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, all thanks to its rich antioxidant levels!
Toss it into smoothies, mix it into salads, or blend it into muffins! In addition to its antioxidants, spinach is packed with magnesium — a mineral needed for more than 300 enzymatic reactions (including processes related to stress and anxiety support!)
Avocado is always in the superfood spotlight, for good reason. Beyond its satiating healthy fats, avocado contains important stress-supporting nutrients (like B Vitamins and Vitamin E), making it a delicious antioxidant-rich food for anxiety to consider adding to your diet.
Hemp seeds are not only rich in the anxiety-supporting antioxidant vitamin E, but they’re also loaded with magnesium, an essential mineral that supports mood and sleep. Try sprinkling them onto your salad or smoothie for a calming boost!
For such a tiny seed, chia seeds are mighty powerful when it comes to our health! Chia seeds are rich in fiber, Omega-3’s, plant-based protein, and of course — loaded with antioxidants.
How to Add Antioxidants to Your Diet
#1 Make an Antioxidant-Rich Smoothie
Toss them in your smoothie for an energizing and neuroprotective superfood boost! While smoothies are a tasty way to pack loads of nutrients into a single serving, be mindful of the ingredients you’re using. The sugar content can add up quickly, which can actually increase oxidative stress, says Mastella. So, go easy on the juices and fruit! Keep in mind, too many supplements and protein powders can have a similar effect.
#2 Make Trail Mix
Make a DIY trail mix with a mix of antioxidant-rich foods like walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and freeze-dried blueberries.
#3 Make an Antioxidant-Rich Salad
Make a light & refreshing antioxidant-infused salad. Try a combo of dark leafy greens, seeds, and fruit like kale, strawberries, and pumpkin seeds!
#4 Enjoy a Comforting Turmeric Latte
Wind down the day with a calming turmeric latte — one of the yummiest ways to incorporate antioxidants for anxiety!
#5 Whip up a Nourishing Snack
Stir them into your favorite energy ball recipe. A great way to fight mid-day fatigue. You can also snack on some fresh berries — simple and sweet!
Blueberry & Hemp Seed Smoothie
If you’re feeling blue, try brightening up your day with a yummy antioxidant-filled Blueberry & Hemp Seed FitOn PRO Smoothie.
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 Medjool date, pitted (optional)
- ½ cup almond milk, or milk of choice
- ½ cup water
- 1 tbsp hemp seeds
- ¼ avocado
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 large baby spinach
Step #1: Place all of the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until combined.
Step #2: Pour the smoothie into a glass or bowl and top with extra hemp seeds, if using.
Low-sugar Acai Bowl
This single-serve Low-sugar Acai Bowl is chalked full of antioxidants. Between the acai, blueberries, and cacao, you’ll be fighting free radicals with ease!
- 3½ oz frozen acai
- 1 frozen banana
- ⅛ cup frozen blueberries
- ¾ tbsp cacao powder
- 1 tbsp almond butter
- ⅛ cup almond milk
Step #1: Place all of the ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until they reach a smooth, creamy consistency.
Step #2: Pour the mixture into a bowl and decorate with your preferred toppings.
Beetroot, Avocado, & Kale Salad
Full of flavor and brain-boosting support, this FitOn PRO Beet, Avocado, and Kale Salad is the perfect balance of sweet and savory.
- 1 small beetroot
- 3 leaves kale, stems removed, and leaves shredded
- ½ lemon, juiced
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ avocado, chopped into chunks
- ¾ cup mixed sprouts (optional)
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds, toasted
Step #1: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Step #2: Trim the top and bottom off the beetroot and leave the remaining skin as is. Wrap the beetroot in foil and place it on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 50 minutes. Once cooked, remove the beetroot from the oven, unwrap it and leave it to sit for 10 minutes to cool. Once cooled, remove the remaining skin, it should peel off easily. Cut the beetroot into small chunks.
Step #3: Prep the kale by placing torn leaves in a bowl covered with lemon juice and olive oil. Massage the juice and oil into the kale. Season with sea salt and pepper.
Step #4: To make the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Season to taste.
Step #5: Plate and serve!
Snacks That Bring Ease Into Your Day
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and consider all of the ways you can support your emotions. You have more tools to call on than you think! In addition to anxiety-reducing hacks like meditation and journaling, consider snacking on these antioxidant-rich foods to help you feel balanced, support your mood, and support overall wellness all at the same time.