Anxiety, depression, and garden-variety stress are extraordinarily common. And they can range from being an occasional bother to being a life-impacting chronic issue. Of course, we want to find any and every way to keep them at bay. But can juicing really help anxiety?
A recipe for an amazing anti-anxiety smoothie
Give this one a go!
- 1 handful frozen or fresh kale or spinach
- 1 cup frozen berries or cherries
- 1/2 of a medium frozen banana
- 2 cups unsweetened plant-based milk
- 1 scoop of unsweetened vanilla pea protein
- 1 tablespoon natural almond butter
Roughly chop the fruits and veg. Add them and the remaining ingredients to a regular/large blender pitcher. Blend to the desired smoothness. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later. Makes about three to four 1-cup servings.
Recipe based on this one.
While there’s a panoply of conventional treatments — like meds and psychotherapy — you may be interested in exploring DIY options. You aren’t alone! In fact, the world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) — including using natural remedies like food to cure health conditions — is exploding.
Functional nutrition falls under the CAM umbrella. And, in this article, we’ll press out juicy info on juicing’s place in addressing anxiety.
Some studies have found that a diet high in fruits and vegetables are associated with a lower risk of anxiety and other mental health disorders, but juicing isn’t the same as eating whole fruits and vegetables.
Juicing for anxiety and depression — does it work?
Not a lot of research has taken place on juicing for mental health. Buuuuuuuuut here are a few pips to catch in your teeth for a moment:
- A pair of studies on rats — one using blackberry and the other using black chokeberry — found that the berry juices had a favorable outcome on the rodents’ anxiety levels.
- Participants in a small human trial reported significant benefits with nutritional intervention, which included juicing along with a vegan diet, nutritional supplements, regular exercise, and destressing techniques.
So, juicing’s effectiveness for tackling anxiety is still a bit of a “?” While it could clearly benefit from more research, though, it seems to be a promising therapeutic approach — especially if you include it as part of a broader, holistic care plan that includes Western medical therapies, exercise, stress-reduction techniques, and so on.
Although following a healthy, well-rounded diet and increasing your overall fruit and vegetable intake may help reduce anxiety symptoms, it’s unlikely that any single juice or smoothie will make a significant impact on your anxiety levels. It’s best to focus on overall dietary intake.
Are other methods of drinking nutrients better than juicing for mental health?
The key is nutrient retention and bioavailability. Generally speaking, eating whole foods is more advantageous to your well-being than drinking them.
However, if drinking your vitamin A-to-Zs is your jam, you want to make the absolute most of it. To make guzzling down nutrients pay off as much as possible, keep these tips in mind:
- Use as much of the fruit/vegetable as you can. If the leaves, peels, pith, seed, etc. are edible and have nutritional value, they might be good inclusions for your beverage.
- Consider a smoothie rather than just juice. Smoothies frequently encompass a broader range of ingredients and make it easy to chuck in healthy fats, protein, and so on. Bonus: You can be a lot more imaginative with these tasty blended drinks.
- Go homemade. (As opposed to buying ready-made grocery store juice in a bottle or carton or from concentrate.) Freshly-concocted juices will likely contain fewer additives (e.g., sugar or preservatives) and more of the vitamins, fiber, etc. that you do want.
- Quality produce counts. Use quality ingredients — garbage in = garbage out!
- Power it up. Adding some protein to your juice or smoothie can help balance its nutritional profile.
- Proper portions. Be mindful of your intake and be sure to factor that into your overall daily food plan. It can be super easy to overconsume your calories when they’re in liquid form. Overeating and obesity can increase your risk for conditions like anxiety.
The gut-brain axis is one way your body and brain have strong links. The community of microbes in your gut (aka gut microbiota) communicates with your central nervous system. If they’re out of balance, they can contribute to diseases both inside and outside of your gastrointestinal tract.
Research has linked inflammation and dysbiosis of the gut to anxiety and depression.
There’s a ton of research on this. And several medical disciplines — functional medicine, epigenetics, etc. — continue to study and apply learnings. Backing this up further are centuries of observational knowledge around the link between your belly and your head.
Food = mood and ‘tude
Yes! Your diet can impact your mental state. Your gut and brain are derived from the same type of cells and communicate with each other by sending signals along the vagus nerve. Also, a huge portion of your mood-regulating (aka serotonin) receptors calls your gut lining home sweet home.
Different foods and nutrients create different messages. Each one tells your brain to carry out specific actions, like generating, releasing, removing, or otherwise modulating a particular neurochemical. And, in turn, it’s these chemicals in your brain that can influence your mood, stress response, and overall mental health.
Many studies support this cycle. They also provide a whole bunch of data and other findings on how various nutrients can help you prevent, treat, and manage a slew of physical and mental health concerns. To give you a taste, here’s what a couple of studies that focused on diet and anxiety found:
- A 2019 study discovered that older adults that ate more saturated fat and sugar were more likely to have higher anxiety levels.
- A 2020 study found that greater consumption of nonrefined grains and vegetables was associated with lower depression and anxiety severity in adults.
Anxiety-busting nutrients please!
OK, so nutrition *can* affect mental health functions. Got it.
Knowing this is powerful! It means you may be able to positively influence your anxiety levels by simply adjusting the foods you eat (or don’t eat).
Feel-good food groups
To work at its best, your brain needs healthy, high fiber carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals. You can get these nutritional building blocks by incorporating a rainbow of foods from across the following categories:
- complex carbs
- lean proteins
- fermented foods
- fatty fish
- nuts and seeds
- fresh (or frozen) fruits and vegetables
Get your daily dose of vitamin “See (ya later, anxiety!)”
In terms of easing anxiety, certain nutrients have shown themselves to be more effective. Studies indicate a link between the following nutrients and a person’s reduced anxiety status.
However, some of these studies focused on supplementation, while others examined a link between nutrient levels and anxiety symptoms. Supplementation provides a more concentrated dose of nutrients, which could be more effective for anxiety than dietary nutrients.
For example, check out what research has discovered about these key players:
- Amino acids. Diets without enough aminos are associated with a higher risk of anxiety disorders.
- Antioxidants, including beta-carotene. Higher intake of beta-carotene have links to a lower prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress in female adolescents.
- Curcumin (a compound found in turmeric). Research showed that curcumin has a modulating effect on brain circuitry and chemistry related to depressive disorders. Amounts of curcumin in turmeric are pretty low, so supplementation may be more appropriate to for therapeutic purposes.
- Magnesium. There may be an inverse relationship between magnesium levels and self-reported anxiety. So, boosting your intake could result in less anxiety.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. These omegas can reduce inflammation, release neurochemicals like dopamine, and balance your body’s microbiome, all of which might soothe anxiety.
- Probiotics. Evidence suggested that probiotics may ease anxiety that’s accompanied by depression. However, the studies in question were pretty small.
- Tryptophan. This important amino acid has shown anxiety-reducing effects, as well as the ability to help the body produce and release serotonin, a brain chemical connected to mood and behavior.
- Vitamin C. This powerful antioxidant fights oxidative stress, which could trigger anxiety.
- Vitamin D. In folks with vitamin D deficiency, vit D may resolve anxiety or alleviate symptoms.
- Vitamin E. Another powerful antioxidant, vit E, seems to provide a promising complementary therapy to conventional anti-anxiety/antidepressant meds. The combo showed significant reduction in anxiety scores.
- Zinc. Aging populations are prone to low zinc concentrations alongside depression and anxiety. Older adults who are zinc-deficient are more likely to experience depression.
This is really just a shortlist to get you started.
Having suboptimal levels or being deficient in certain nutrients could increase the risk of anxiety symptoms. People who follow restrictive diets, older adults, and those with certain medical conditions are more likely to develop nutrient deficiencies.
If you think you may have a nutrient deficiency or be at risk for developing one, consult a healthcare pro for advice and proper testing.
Just give me a shopping list of fruits and veggies already
You can find these nutrients in a variety of juicing-worthy fruits and veggies.
To promote overall health, including mental health, it’s important to consume a variety of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. To increase your produce consumption, stock your cupboards and fridge with these popular and productive juicing and smoothie wonders:
You might also want to consider some other potentially anxiety-reducing goodies:
Get creative and mix things up! By routinely switching around the combination of ingredients, you’ll have an easier time getting your full menu of nutrients.
On top of things that could be beneficial to add to your regimen, you should be wary of others. Recent research suggests it may be wise to avoid:
If it comes down to taste — well, that’s pretty subjective isn’t it?
Whip up a tall glass of better mental health
Want to give this thing a shot? You can def press your luck with some more fluidy juices. But we’re serving up some anti-anxiety smoothie inspo. And these recipes that have our mouths watering (in a chill sort of way).
Saying that, increasing your overall intake of fruits, veggies, and healthy foods might help reduce anxiety symptoms, but none of them will provide immediate relief.
- Paleo orange greensicle smoothie
- Anti-anxiety smoothie with plant protein
- Blueberry almond butter smoothie
- Destress smoothie for when you also crave peanut butter + chocolate
- Gingery relieve anxiety smoothie with green tea
Notice how all the recipes feature ingredients that practically ooze anxiety-fighting nutrients? Not a coincidence.
It may be worth noting that other bevvies might relieve anxiety, too. Depending upon the nature and origin of your anxiety, water, herbal teas, or alcohol may soothe you.
Anxiety in brief | Anxiety 101
We’ve talked a lot about anxiety, so let’s get a quick overview of what it’s all about.
Anxiety is one of many natural responses that your body can have to stress. Everyone gets stressed sometimes; correspondingly, we all experience anxiety at some point. Not a news flash. And not something for you to be too concerned with.
But anxiety can become a problem — as in a clinically diagnosable disorder — if it starts to disrupt your daily life. Like if you excessively worry or frequently work yourself into a tizzy over fairly innocuous things. It can cause your response to real (or imaginary) stress to be way out of proportion and create an unhealthy scenario for you.
Possible causes, triggers, and aggravators for anxiety
- brain physiology
- your environment
- other medical conditions
- certain medications
- alcohol or drug use/abuse/withdrawal
Common anxiety treatments
People can treat anxiety in the following ways, although different things work for different people:
Being anxious is not the same as having an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders require medical care from a trained professional.
Your Berry Green Bliss Frappé may be all Zen and fantastic, but it’s not a cure-all. Knowing when it’s time to shelve your bullet blender for a minute and check in with your doctor is critical.
You should seek help if any/all of the following apply:
- Your anxiety is disrupting your daily life. This could manifest as something like an inability to concentrate at work, trouble with your relationships, or avoiding places/activities you once enjoyed.
- You’re turning to alcohol or other substances to “self-medicate.”
- Your symptoms last for a long time or recur frequently.
- You’re experiencing physical issues as a result of your anxiety. Sleep problems, aches, and tummy probs are just a few examples.
- You’re experiencing suicidal thoughts.
- You feel like your worries, irritability, stress, etc. are out of control and taking over. Like you aren’t yourself anymore.
Consulting with your doc before starting a juicing-for-anxiety program is also a good idea if you have other health conditions or take medications.
Mental health resources
If your anxiety feels out of control but you don’t know where to turn, these resources may help:
- The National Alliance on Mental Health — a 24-hour helpline to talk about depression, anxiety, or any mental health issues: 800-950-6264
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — a national network of more than 150 local crisis centers, offering free and confidential emotional support to those in crisis: 1-800-273-8255
- IMAlive — a virtual crisis center with volunteers trained in crisis intervention if the ideation becomes more active.
- The Trevor Project Hotline — a national 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth: 1-866-488-7386
- Trans Lifeline — a lifeline specifically led by and for trans people in need of emotional and psychological support: 877-565-8860
So juicing for anxiety — is it all it’s cracked up to be? Well, science hasn’t looked into it too deeply over other forms of taking in nutrients. But science also suggests that what you eat can and does impact your mental health. Adjusting your diet could help you prevent and treat conditions like anxiety.
For anxiety, it might be better to drink bevvies that still have the pulp, pith, and other parts of the fruits and veggies still intact. Juicing cuts out all of this, and you might end up missing out on vital, anxiety busting nutrients.
The key is consuming proven anxiety-busting nutrients, like those found in healthy, well-rounded diets. Avoiding foods and drinks that promote inflammation or anxiety is important, too.
Drinking in those nutrients may make getting your daily dose of vitamins and minerals easier. For best results, go for high quality ingredients like colorful produce, lean protein, healthy fats, and wholesome cereal grains. Eat as many fruits and veggies as possible to retain maximum nutrition.
Speak with a healthcare pro if you feel your anxiety is getting out of hand.