Foods Rich in GABA


The brain has a number of neurotransmitters, and gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is one of them. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, as it helps brainwaves operate in harmony by reducing the excitability of neurons. GABA is associated with tension and stress control. Lack of GABA can result in palpitations, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, low sex drive, and stress. Foods rich in GABA might address this deficiency and associated symptoms.

Vegetables are rich sources of vitamin B6, needed for the synthesis of GABA.
Vegetables are rich sources of vitamin B6, needed for the synthesis of GABA.

GABA Function

GABA is one of the main neurotransmitters that works to create calming, rhythmic electrical impulses in the brain. It increases the production of alpha waves to induce calm while boosting alertness. Conversely, GABA works to lower beta waves, impulses that induce nervousness, anxiety and hyperactivity. GABA cannot be synthesized naturally by the body, but neurons can synthesize GABA from glutamine, vitamin B6 and various amino acids.

Doctor looking at brain scan
Doctor looking at brain scan (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are starches that require more digestion than do simple carbohydrates. Examples include whole-grain pasta, lentils, oats, rice bran, bananas, wheat germ and whole grains. Complex carbohydrates can also enhance moods and alleviate stress symptoms. Not only are they rich sources of B vitamins, fiber and iron, they also help to increase levels of glutamine, an amino acids needed for the production of GABA.

Bowl of dried lentils
Bowl of dried lentils (Image: Oxana Denezhkina/iStock/Getty Images)

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients, and the brightly colored ones boost high levels of anthocyanins, a potent group of antioxidants. They are also rich sources of vitamin B6, needed to synthesize enzymes involved in protein metabolism, including GABA. Vitamin B6 is also known to boost the nervous and immune systems, which is related to the function of GABA. Good choices include spinach, broccoli, peas, soybeans, bananas, apricots, apples, avocados and citrus fruits.

Half and whole avocados
Half and whole avocados (Image: Francesco Dibartolo/iStock/Getty Images)

Green Teas

Green tea is associated with many health benefits that include fighting cancer, boosting cardiovascular health, enhancing the immune system, helping weight loss. These health benefits are attributed to the high concentration of catechins, powerful anti-oxidants found in green tea. Green tea also contains L-theanine, an anxiety-reducing amino acid that helps to boost GABA production naturally. According to PubMed, when rats were given L-theanine in combination with midazolam (medication to produce sleepiness or drowsiness), a synergistic effect was observed with decreased anxiety and motor activity.

Pot and cups filled with green tea
Pot and cups filled with green tea (Image: TongRo Images/TongRo Images/Getty Images)

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