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These 8 Foods Will Help Calm Your Anxiety

If you struggle with anxiety, try adding these foods to your diet to calm your nerves.

Taylor Leamey Senior Writer
Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness, specializing in mental health, sleep and nutrition coverage. She has invested hundreds of hours into studying and researching sleep and holds a Certified Sleep Science Coach certification from the Spencer Institute. Not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Sociology. She is also a Certified Stress Management Coach.
Expertise Sleep, Mental Health, Nutrition and Supplements Credentials
  • Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach
Taylor Leamey
5 min read
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Every bite counts when you're living with anxiety. Whether you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or are temporarily stressed, the food choices you make can relieve or worsen symptoms.

What you eat has a direct impact on your mood and the chemicals in the brain. Being intentional about filling your diet with foods that elevate your mental health allows you to ease anxiety naturally

Best 8 foods for anxiety to try today

1. Yogurt

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Yogurt not only helps keep you regular, but it may also help ease anxiety and improve your mood. Research shows that the gut-brain connection plays a bigger role in our mental health than anyone suspected. Studies have found that the active probiotic cultures in fermented foods may help reduce social anxiety and stress. 

The brain and gut are far apart; how can they play such a huge role? It's all about chemicals. Roughly 95% of the body's serotonin production (the feel-good chemical) happens in the gut. If your digestive system isn't healthy enough to sustain making serotonin, it can take a toll on your mental health. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates and stabilizes our mood. Without it, you experience depression or anxiety.

2. Almonds

Almonds have a lot going for them. Not only are they good for heart health, but they may help ease anxiety. Almonds have several nutrients that are hard at work. To start, vitamin E and omega-3s keep your brain functioning at peak performance. And then there's magnesium. Supplementing how much magnesium you consume can improve mild symptoms of anxiety

It only takes an ounce of almonds to account for about 20% of the daily recommended value. 

More foods high in magnesium include leafy greens like kale and spinach. Leafy greens have the added benefit of containing a good source of Vitamin C. Research shows that a deficiency in vitamin C is associated with stress-related disorders.

3. Blueberries

Antioxidants and vitamin C have both been proven to relieve feelings of anxiety. Do you know what's packed with both? Blueberries. A study on students and oral vitamin C supplements found that increasing vitamin C intake can prevent and manage anxiety. Blueberries and other berries are great snacks to swap out for sugary treats. To increase your intake, add them to food like yogurt or smoothies.

4. Salmon 

Salmon, known for its omega-3 fatty acid content, is another of the top foods for anxiety. When anxiety spikes, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode as cortisol is released. Your heart rate and blood pressure spike, and you experience physical anxiety symptoms. Regularly eating salmon helps keep your cortisol and adrenaline levels down.

The fatty acids in salmon -- docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid -- support brain health by reducing inflammation and by regulating dopamine and serotonin. Salmon also has vitamin D, which is also showing success in reducing anxiety. 

If you're not a fish eater, you can use other sources of omega-3 fatty acids: chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseed and soybeans.  

5. Turkey 

Most people know turkey's tryptophan content as the thing that makes you sleepy after eating it. That's why everyone takes a turkey nap after thanksgiving. But tryptophan is more than that -- it's the essential amino acid our body uses to create serotonin, which helps regulate and stabilize our moods. Eating foods high in tryptophan can help decrease anxiety and boost your happiness. Tryptophan is also available in supplements. 

Woman taking a bite out of a piece of dark chocolate
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6. Dark chocolate

I know what you're thinking -- finally, there's something sweet on this list. Dark chocolate is another food that will boost happiness and ease anxiety in the moment. This may be caused by the flavonols in dark chocolate increasing blood flow to the brain and aiding cognition. Or it might be that dark chocolate can reduce how much cortisol is in the body

A lot is going on with chocolate. More research is needed to fully investigate why dark chocolate and other cocoa-rich products improve mood and reduce anxiety. But either way, it's your free pass to eat some dark chocolate. 

7. Turmeric 

Turmeric is a common spice that may help prevent anxiety disorders thanks to its curcumin content. Curcumin is a compound that works as an anti-inflammatory for the body; it's also been found to treat anxiety. 

Eating turmeric boosts levels of DHA, the fatty acid crucial for brain development and serotonin and dopamine production in the brain. Studies have found that curcumin may also play a role in alleviating depression.

You can easily add turmeric powder to curries, soups or smoothies.

8. Avocados

Avocados are a superfood with healthy fats and fibers that have been shown to reduce a person's risk of developing chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. They're also rich in B vitamins, which are particularly important for mental health. Studies have found that more B vitamins in someone's diet can help reduce stress and feelings of anxiety.

It's not just B vitamins with avocados; they also contain tryptophan, the amino acid that affects your mood. Avocados give you stress-relieving properties while filling your belly and leaving you satisfied. 

Woman picking up a piece of avocado toast from the center of the brunch table
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Diet tips for managing your anxiety

Your diet is a huge part of treating anxiety, but there's more to it than just what you eat. Making changes in your diet isn't easy, though not impossible. Use these simple tips to harness the power of foods that ease anxiety. 

  • Drink plenty of water: Water is essential for mental health. Those who are dehydrated have a higher risk of developing anxiety. Not to mention that not drinking enough water leads the body to release more cortisol.
  • Limit caffeine: The physical symptoms that caffeine evokes can mimic anxiety. When our blood pressure and heart rate increase, we feel on edge. Try swapping out your second cup of coffee with herbal tea for anxiety
  • Cut down on alcohol: Alcohol tends to exacerbate the symptoms of several mental health conditions, including anxiety. It's best to limit alcohol content as much as you can.
  • Avoid foods that trigger anxiety: There are foods you should avoid with anxiety. The general rule is to cut out foods high in processed sugars -- like ketchup and frosting -- that spikes your blood sugar and then causes it to crash. 

A final thing I'll say on naturally treating anxiety with diet: You can eat all of these foods and still experience anxiety. Anxiety is a complex disorder with a lot of facets. For some, natural remedies for anxiety like food and teas won't eliminate symptoms -- and that's OK. Therapy and medications are still the gold standards for anxiety treatment. Talk to your doctor to find the best treatment plan.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.