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How Nutrient Deficiency Can Contribute to Feelings of Anxiety

How Nutrient Deficiency Can Contribute to Feelings of Anxiety

Hey there! Have you ever found yourself feeling unusually anxious or on edge and couldn't quite figure out why? You're definitely not alone. Anxiety is like that uninvited guest who shows up at the most inconvenient times, and it's something a lot of us deal with more often than we'd like to admit. But here's something you might not have considered: what if the food you eat—or more precisely, the nutrients you might not be getting enough of—could be playing a role in those anxious feelings?

Now, before we dive deeper, let's get something straight. Anxiety is a complex beast, influenced by a whole host of factors like our genetics, our environment, and yes, our lifestyle choices, including diet. The idea that skipping out on certain nutrients can mess with our mood isn't new, but it's definitely gaining more attention these days. And for a good reason!

In this journey we're about to embark on, we'll explore the unseen heroes of our mental well-being: the essential nutrients. We're talking about the vitamins, minerals, and fats that our bodies crave to keep our brains humming smoothly and our mood on the up and up. Unfortunately, these nutrients don't always make it onto our plates as often as they should, leaving our bodies a bit more vulnerable to the likes of anxiety.

So, if you've ever wondered whether there's more to your anxiety than meets the eye, stick around. We're going to unpack the top nutrients that deserve a regular spot in your diet and why giving your body the nourishment it deserves might just be the key to keeping those anxious feelings at bay.

A depressed young lady sitting on the floor

1 - Understanding Anxiety

So, what's the deal with anxiety, anyway? Imagine it as your body's natural alarm system—except sometimes, it's a bit too eager, sounding off alarms when there's no real danger. It's like having a super sensitive car alarm that goes off at the slightest breeze. Annoying, right? Anxiety can make you feel all sorts of things: jittery, nervous, or like you're carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. And it's pretty common, too, affecting millions of folks around the globe.

But here's where it gets interesting: anxiety isn't just about biting your nails or feeling butterflies in your stomach. It's a complex emotional cocktail mixed up by a bunch of different factors. Genetics play a role, kind of like inheriting your grandma's eye color or your dad's knack for telling terrible jokes. Then there's your environment—everything from the stress of a 9-to-5 job to the chaos of city living can crank up your anxiety levels. And, of course, we can't forget about lifestyle, where diet waltzes in. You see, what we eat feeds not just our bodies but also our brains. Miss out on certain nutrients, and your brain might start feeling a bit under the weather, contributing to those anxious vibes[1][2].

2 - Role of Nutrition in Mental Health

Alright, folks, let's get down to the nitty-gritty: how exactly does what we eat affect our mental well-being? Imagine your brain as this super sophisticated, high-tech gadget that needs the right kind of juice to keep running smoothly. And by juice, I mean those vital nutrients that come from the food we munch on.

Our brains are pretty demanding. They're always buzzing, processing thoughts, emotions, and memories, and to do all that heavy lifting, they need a bunch of different nutrients. These nutrients are the secret ingredients in creating neurotransmitters, the brain's way of sending snappy texts across its network. These little messengers have a big job, influencing everything from our mood swings to how well we sleep at night. When our gut is brimming with good vibes (plenty of nutrients), it sends love letters to our brain. But if it's out of whack, it's more like sending SOS signals, which can amp up the anxiety. Research shows that a balanced diet isn't just a boon for your bod; it's critical for keeping your mental game strong[3][4]. From pivotal studies highlighting the importance of nutrition for mental health to the discovery of the gut-brain connection, the evidence is clear: what you eat directly impacts how you feel, mentally and emotionally.

3 - Nutrients Linked to Anxiety and Their Function

Alright, let's roll up our sleeves and get into the kitchen of knowledge, where we'll whip up some tasty facts about the nutrients that play lead roles in the drama (or comedy) of our mental health. These are the nutritional VIPs that, if missing from the menu, might leave your brain feeling a bit more anxious than usual.

  • Magnesium : Magnesium plays a crucial role in over 300 biochemical reactions in your body, including ones that help manage stress and keep you feeling calm[5]. Running low on magnesium? You might find yourself a tad more frazzled or wound up. So, think of foods like spinach, almonds, and avocados as your edible stress relievers.

  • Omega Fatty Acids: These fatty acids are like the oil that keeps the gears of your brain running smoothly, reducing inflammation and promoting healthy brain function[6]. Studies suggest that not getting enough omega-3s could turn up the volume on anxiety.

  • Vitamin D: Affectionately known as the "sunshine vitamin", vitamin D is a key player in mood regulation. Low levels can lead to feeling down or anxious[7]. For your indoor sunshine, look to foods like fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods to keep your spirits bright.

  • B-Vitamins: Then we have the B vitamins, a band of nutrients that work behind the scenes in mood management and brain health[8]. Vitamins B6 and B12, in particular, are crucial for creating neurotransmitters that regulate emotions. Chickpeas, chicken, and bananas are just a few of the backstage passes to better mood regulation.

  • Iron: Iron is like the body's personal conductor, ensuring that oxygen gets to your brain and everywhere else that needs it[9]. Without enough iron, you might start feeling lethargic, foggy, and yes, more anxious. To keep your energy levels up and running, lean into foods like red meat, lentils, and spinach.

  • Zinc: Zinc is the brain's bodyguard, protecting your brain cells from damage and playing a role in neurotransmitter production. A shortage of this mineral can lead to mood disturbances and heightened anxiety[10]. To beef up your brain's defense system, turn to foods like oysters, beef, and pumpkin seeds.

  • Amino Acids: Last but definitely not least, we've got amino acids, the building blocks of proteins and, by extension, neurotransmitters. They're crucial for brain function and maintaining a balanced mood[11]. Skimping on these can leave your brain feeling a bit under construction. Foods like turkey, eggs, and quinoa will help you keep your brain buzzing and your mood in check.

 4 - Strategies to Addressing Nutrients Deficiency

Alright, let's chat now about how to stock your pantry (and your plate) with these mood-boosting marvels. 

  • Diversity: Diversity is the key to your diet. Just like you wouldn't wear the same outfit every day (unless it's your superhero cape, of course), you don't want to eat the same food at every meal. Mixing things up ensures you get the full spectrum of nutrients. So, aim for a rainbow of fruits and veggies, a variety of protein sources (both animal and plant-based), and don't forget those whole grains and healthy fats.

  • Become Friend With Whole Foods: Processed foods might be convenient, but they're like those fair-weather friends who aren't there for you when the going gets tough. Whole foods, on the other hand, are your ride-or-dies. They're packed with the nutrients your brain craves, without all the added sugars and preservatives that can make anxiety crash your party. So go for the real deal—real foods in their most natural state.

  • Supplement Wisely: Sometimes, even the best-laid dietary plans might need a little backup. That's where supplements come in. Think of them as your nutritional understudies, stepping in when you can't get everything you need from food alone. But here's the deal: not all supplements are created equal, and more isn't always better. At Rütean, we offer a range of high-quality, scientifically-backed supplements tailored to fill those nutritional gaps. And in case you're not sure what you need, there's a quiz on our website designed to recommend the right supplements for your unique needs. It's like having a personal nutritionist at your fingertips, guiding you to make the best choices for your health.

  • Drink Plenty of Water: Water might just be the most underrated nutrient out there. It's essential for, well, just about everything in your body, including brain function. Dehydration is a sneaky saboteur of mental health, so keep that water bottle handy and sip your way to hydration heaven.

  • Listen to Your Body: Tune in to what your body is telling you. If certain foods make you feel sluggish or jittery, it might be worth exploring why. And remember, what works for someone else might not work for you. Your body is unique, so your approach to nutrition should be too.

  • Seek Professional Guidance: A registered dietitian or a nutrition-savvy healthcare provider can be your compass, helping you navigate toward a diet that supports your mental and physical health.

5 - Beyond Nutrition: Holistic Approach to Managing Anxiety

Okay, so we've been talking a ton about how taking magnesium or feasting on omega-3s can help keep those anxious feelings at bay. But there is more to it than just what's on your plate:

  • Embrace the Power of Movement: Exercise isn't just about getting those gains or hitting your step count. It's like giving your brain a bubble bath. Whether it's yoga, dancing in your living room, or going for a brisk walk, moving your body releases endorphins—those feel-good hormones that are natural stress-busters. Plus, it's a great way to clear your mind and get a fresh perspective on things.

  • Meditate: Practicing mindfulness or meditation can help lower stress levels, improve your focus, and make you feel more grounded. And the best part? You can do it anywhere, anytime.

  • Get Some Sleep: Catching those Zzz's is like hitting the reset button for your brain. A good night's sleep helps regulate mood, improves brain function, and reduces anxiety. So, make sure your bedroom is a cozy haven for restful slumber, and try to keep a consistent sleep schedule. Your brain will thank you.

  • Be Social: Don't underestimate the power of a good chat with a friend, family member, or even a furry companion. Social support is a cornerstone of mental well-being. It's about sharing your thoughts, laughing over silly things, or simply knowing someone's there. Feeling connected can help ease anxiety and remind you that you're not alone on this journey.

  • Seek Professional Help When Needed: If anxiety is becoming a bit too much to handle on your own, reaching out to a mental health professional is a brave and smart move. Therapists, counselors, and psychologists have a toolbox full of strategies to help you navigate through the stormy seas of anxiety. 



Here's the thing: life's a bit like a buffet. There's a variety of options out there, and finding the right mix that works for you is key. Managing anxiety is about picking and choosing what fits your palate and your lifestyle.

Remember, it's okay if some days are harder than others. It's all part of the process. The important thing is to keep exploring, keep trying, and keep being kind to yourself. Whether it's tweaking your diet to include more brain-boosting nutrients, lacing up your sneakers for a quick jog, sitting down for a few minutes of meditation, or reaching out to a professional for a helping hand, every step you take is a step toward a calmer, happier you.




1 - Hettema, J. M., Neale, M. C., & Kendler, K. S. (2001). A review and meta-analysis of the genetic epidemiology of anxiety disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158(10), 1568-1578. 

2 - Jacka, F. N., O’Neil, A., Opie, R., Itsiopoulos, C., Cotton, S., Mohebbi, M., Castle, D., Dash, S., Mihalopoulos, C., Chatterton, M. L., Brazionis, L., Dean, O. M., Hodge, A. M., & Berk, M. (2017). BMC Medicine, 15(1), 23. 

3 - Sarris, J. et al., (2015). Lancet Psychiatry, 2(3), 271-274. 

4 - Foster, J. A., & Neufeld, K. A. M. (2013). Trends in Neurosciences, 36(5), 305-312. 

5 - Boyle, N. B., Lawton, C., & Dye, L. (2017). The Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Subjective Anxiety and Stress—A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 9(5), 429. 

6 - Su, K. P., Tseng, P. T., Lin, P. Y., Okubo, R., Chen, T. Y., Chen, Y. W., & Matsuoka, Y. J. (2018). JAMA Network Open, 1(5), e182327.

7 - Anglin, R. E., Samaan, Z., Walter, S. D., & McDonald, S. D. (2013). Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 202(2), 100-107. This meta-analysis reveals a significant association between vitamin D deficiency and depression, highlighting the mood-regulating effects of vitamin D.

8 - Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68. 

9 - Beard, J. L. (2003). Iron Deficiency Alters Brain Development and Functioning. The Journal of Nutrition, 133(5), 1468S-1472S. 

10 - Swardfager, W., Herrmann, N., McIntyre, R. S., Mazereeuw, G., Goldberger, K., Cha, D. S., Schwartz, Y., & Lanctôt, K. L. (2013). Potential roles of zinc in the pathophysiology and treatment of major depressive disorder. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(5), 911-929.

11 - Strasser, B., Gostner, J. M., & Fuchs, D. (2016). Mood, food, and cognition: role of tryptophan and serotonin. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 19(1), 55-61.