The 6 best vitamins and minerals for easing anxiety

When it comes to managing anxiety, things can get a little tricky as there's so much information out there digest.

Healthy Eating | Stress and sleep

Sonia Chartier

15 May 2019

1. Magnesium

Magnesium is a miracle mineral for stress and anxiety, so it only makes sense to start by saying more about this nutrient. Magnesium performs several key functions throughout the body that benefit your nervous system, thus reducing anxiety symptoms. This mineral helps convert the amino acid tryptophan into serotonin, a key mood-boosting neurotransmitter.

Magnesium is also needed to maintain healthy levels of GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid. As your brain's main inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA helps your mind and body relax. Understandably, this neurotransmitter is pretty important for your sleep patterns and mood, with low levels contributing to feelings of anxiety, restlessness or even insomnia.

How much each day?
Health Canada recommends getting from 320–420 mg of magnesium per day. Here at A.Vogel, we always say that you should be able to get all the magnesium you need from your diet alone—there are plenty of magnesium-rich foods out there for you to pick from. However, certain groups of people, such as menopausal women, may wish to try a supplement, in which case we recommend MenoSupport complex, which contains Magnesium Citrate.
Best food sources: Pumpkin seeds, spinach, bananas, avocados, dark chocolate and cashews

2. Vitamin D

While Vitamin D is best known as a nutrient, what most people don't know is that it can act as a hormone too. In addition to supporting calcium absorption, vitamin D helps keep your immune system running smoothly and may even play a role in depression and problems such as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. When it comes to your mood, the action of vitamin D isn't well understood, but we do know that deficiencies are linked to anxiety and that vitamin D receptors are prolific in the areas of your brain associated with depression. This has led some experts to theorize about a possible relationship between vitamin D and serotonin.

How much each day?
Vitamin D is different from other nutrients in that you don't obtain it through your diet. Instead, your body relies on your exposure to sunlight to synthesize vitamin D. But because sunny days can be few and far between in winter, vitamin D deficiencies are quite common.

While you can source vitamin D from the foods you eat, most people these days prefer supplements. If you suspect that you're deficient, start by getting your hunch confirmed by a doctor.
Best food sources: Fortified milk, tofu, salmon, mackerel and shiitake mushrooms

3. Calcium

One of the most abundant elements in your body, calcium is crucial for maintaining healthy bones, muscle contractions and nerves. In the case of your mood, low levels of calcium are often linked to problems such as anxiety or stress, especially in menstruating women. This is because a calcium deficiency can result in PMS-related depression.

How much each day?
It's estimated that adults over the age of 19 need around 1,000 mg of calcium a day, predominantly from dietary sources. When it comes to calcium supplements, many prefer to use one combining calcium and other nutrients, rather than containing calcium alone. These days, calcium and magnesium are a popular combo, as they work together to tackle muscular tension.
Best food sources: Milk, cheese, broccoli, salmon, soybeans and figs

4. Zinc

Zinc might be a trace mineral, but it's definitely not to be underestimated. You need sufficient zinc for everything from maintaining eye and prostate health to manufacturing new cells. Your mood is definitely no exception here—did you know that zinc is mainly concentrated in your brain? Here, it helps to regulate GABA, that calming neurotransmitter I mentioned earlier, while playing a role in producing serotonin, alongside vitamin B6.
Unfortunately, zinc deficiencies aren't unheard of here in Canada, and they can lead to symptoms such as poor wound healing, low immune function, low mood and hair loss. One easy way to tell if you're zinc deficient is to look at your nails: small white spots on them could be a sign that you lack zinc!
How much each day?
As I've mentioned, zinc is a trace nutrient, so you only need very small amounts of it, around 8 mg to 11 mg a day. But if we only need small amounts, why are deficiencies so widespread? It's due in part to how the body absorbs zinc. Generally, meat-based sources are more readily absorbed than plant-based sources, which can create problems for vegan and vegetarians.
Best food sources: Shellfish, lentils, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, eggs and potatoes

5. Iron

Iron deficiencies are extremely common, especially among menstruating women. This is extremely unfortunate, as low levels of iron are linked to a plethora of unpleasant symptoms, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches and brittle nails. What's even worse for your stress levels is the fact that if your iron levels are low, less oxygen-rich blood is being pumped around your body, which can promote feelings of anxiety.

How much each day?
How much iron you need each day can depend on a number of factors. Healthy men and women, for example, will only need 8 mg, while healthy pregnant women need a much higher intake of 27 mg. The problem is that these figures can fluctuate, especially in the case of menstruating women, who usually have a higher demand for iron around the time of their period. Vegans and vegetarians, again, are at risk of a deficiency here, as meat-based foods generally provide not only more iron, but a more readily absorbed form of it, than do plant-based sources.
That's why iron supplements are becoming increasingly popular; however, as always, moderation is key. Too much of a good thing can be extremely detrimental to your body, so try to make sure you're taking a gentle supplement that's going to be well-absorbed by your body.
Best food sources: Beef, pumpkin seeds, spinach, lentils and cashews

6. B vitamins

There are eight different B vitamins, each performing their own distinct functions throughout the body. However, one thing many of them do have in common is that they can help with the management of anxiety.
Let's start by looking at vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. This nutrient helps to convert carbohydrates into energy that your body can then utilize as a fuel source, so it's naturally a good one to keep in mind if fatigue is a problem for you. It's also believed that B1 can help regulate your blood glucose levels which, again, can have a positive impact on anxiety symptoms.
Next, there's vitamin B3, or niacin. You need vitamin B3 to help metabolize alcohol, fats and glucose but, in addition to dealing with these tricky substances, this nutrient also supports the production of serotonin. This is similar to vitamins B9 and B12 (folate and cobalamin, respectively), which often work in tandem to help manufacture red blood cells and are speculated to be a good combination for low mood issues like depression.
Finally, there's vitamin B5, or pantothenic acid, which helps release energy from the food we eat. This vitamin also supports the adrenal glands, thus reducing many of the symptoms associated with stress and anxiety.
How much each day?
When it comes to B vitamins, the amount you need on a daily basis will vary from vitamin to vitamin, which is why I've listed the basic requirements below:
• B1: 1.1–1.2 mg
• B3: 14–16 mg
• B9: 400 µg
• Due to a lack of suitable data, the RDA could not be established for vitamin B12 or pantothenic acid or biotin
When it comes to supplements, we usually recommend taking a B complex rather than individual supplements for each nutrient. 

Food sources: Sunflower seeds, bananas, avocados, lentils, mackerel, wholegrain bread and broccoli


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