5 Everyday Nutrients to Increase GABA (calming the brain)

We’re delighted to introduce Charlotte LaGuardia, Board Certified Nutrition Specialist, American College of Nutrition Member. Her practice, Thrive East, was created out of her passion for real food, nutrition science, and the belief that all people should have access to individualized nutrition.

5 Everyday Nutrients to Increase GABA (calming the brain).

Did you know Matcha green tea is amongst the Top 5 Nutrients to Increase GABA

GABA, which stands for gamma aminobutyric acid, is an amino acid, that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. A neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that transmits information throughout the nervous system. GABA specifically acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which is mainly responsible for calming the brain and promoting sleep by blocking specific brain signals and reducing activity. When GABA enters the brain it attaches to a receptor, known as a GABA receptor, and creates a soothing effect, which reduces feelings of anxiety, fear, and stress. Think of GABA as a hug for your brain!

GABA supplements are available, however there is still not enough data on their safety and efficacy. As a food-first nutritionist, I prefer to look for natural sources rather than lab made pills. Unfortunately, GABA is not available in many foods, but there are plenty of nutrients that support GABA production and receptor availability. Here are a few of my favorites: 

1. Magnesium – This mineral helps to stimulate GABA receptors in the brain, which naturally increases the amount of GABA that can be used in a given time. Magnesium has also been shown to play a major role in muscle relaxation, reduction in symptoms of constipation, and promoting sleep.

Try it - Kale, almonds, black beans, whole grains, avocado

2. B6 – This vitamin is a co-factor for GABA synthesis, which means it can increase the production of GABA. More GABA means increased feelings of relaxation. 

Try it - Spinach, garlic, brussels sprouts

3. Probiotic foods – One of the few food sources of GABA by way of probiotics. In the gut specific strains of bacteria can actually produce GABA. By increasing your consumption of fermented foods, you will naturally boost bacterial levels, leading to a greater production of GABA.

Try it - yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso 

4. Glutamic Acid – Glutamic acid directly supports the production and usage of GABA in the body. Foods high in glutamic acid have been shown to increase GABA in the brain as well as support the maintenance of healthy levels. 

Try it - walnuts, broccoli, sweet potatoes, lentils, shrimp

5. L-Theanine – This amino acid is found mainly in tea leaves and certain mushrooms. It has been shown to boost levels of GABA in the brain, in addition to other neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. This enhances feelings of relaxation.

Try it - ceremonial grade matcha, black tea, coffee



My favorite way to boost GABA levels: 

1 tsp Plentea Matcha

1 scoop Vital Proteins Collagen Powder 

1 tsp MCT oil 

1 tsp Coconut Butter (Coconut Mana) 

1.5 cups filtered water, heated to 175 degrees F

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend on high for 1 minute.

Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy!


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