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The 11 Best Foods That Help With Anxiety

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Anxiety is one of the most unpleasant sensations, and whether you deal with a clinical anxiety disorder or just have temporary bouts of anxiety, having various ways to reduce your anxiety will help you feel more balanced and comfortable.

But, are there foods that help with anxiety? What are the best foods for anxiety? Does eating help with anxiety, or are there specific foods that reduce anxiety?

In this article, we will provide a list of eleven of the best foods that help with anxiety.

Let’s get started!

A person with anxiety balled up on a couch.

11 Foods That Help With Anxiety

Here are some of the best foods that reduce anxiety:

#1: Salmon

Salmon is packed with many essential nutrients, particularly those that support brain health, such as vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

These fatty acids and the fat-soluble vitamin D may help regulate the production of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin, both of which can help relax or calm your body.

Furthermore, studies have found that diets rich in omega fats like EPA and DHA may be associated with lower rates of anxiety due to the fact that these fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and safeguard against some of the dysfunction in brain cells that is thought to be associated with anxiety.

A piece of cooked salmon.

These positive changes induced by omega-3 fatty acids are also thought to help the brain be more adaptive to changes so that you can better handle some of the physical and psychosocial triggers for anxiety symptoms.

In addition, studies have found that vitamin D supplementation can help improve mood and reduce the rates of various mood disorders.

For these reasons, salmon and other fatty fish are often considered some of the best foods that help with anxiety.

One study even found that adult men who ate Atlantic salmon three times a week for five months experienced less anxiety as well as fewer physical manifestations of anxiety, such as elevated heart rate, than men who ate beef, chicken, or pork.

If you are looking to reduce anxiety through diet, consider eating salmon or other fatty fish such as fatty tuna, mackerel, and fatty sardines three times per week.

#2: Turmeric

Turmeric is often lauded for its anti-inflammatory properties, but it may also be one of the best foods that help with anxiety.

Tumeric powder and root.

This bright yellow/orange spice contains a powerful compound called curcumin, which has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which may help reduce chronic inflammation in the brain and oxidative stress that can contribute to anxiety symptoms.

Furthermore, some studies have found that curcumin helps increase the rate and effectiveness of the body‘s natural conversion of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) to DHA.

AHA is another omega-3 fatty acid. 

However, this healthy fatty acid is found in plants and is not thought to be as potent in terms of its anti-inflammatory properties as DHA and EPA, which are generally found only in animal products in higher concentrations.

Although most of the studies that have looked at whether turmeric is a food that reduces anxiety have used curcumin extracts rather than whole turmeric spice, the results from these studies have been favorable in terms of demonstrating an anxiety-reducing benefit of curcumin.

You can also buy curcumin supplements, which will likely be more effective at reducing anxiety than eating foods containing turmeric spice.

However, it certainly won’t hurt to season your food with turmeric if you are hoping to decrease anxiety and improve your overall health.

Baskets of blueberries.

#3: Blueberries and Blackberries

Blueberries and blackberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, both of which may help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. 

Studies have found that eating these types of dark berries may help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

#4: Poultry 

Foods high in tryptophan, such as turkey and chicken, are among the best foods for anxiety because this amino acid serves as a precursor for producing serotonin in the body.

Serotonin promotes relaxation and boosts mood.

#5: Eggs

Eggs are a great food to help anxiety because they are rich in tryptophan, vitamin D, and proteins, all of which may help lower anxiety levels.

Chia seeds.

#6: Chia Seeds and Flaxseeds

Like fatty fish, Chia seeds and flax seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids, so they may be helpful in reducing anxiety. 

However, plant-based omega-3 fatty acids are thought to be not quite as potent in terms of their anti-inflammatory effects as omega-3 fatty acids derived from animal foods.

#7: Almonds

Almonds are one of the best foods that help reduce anxiety because they are rich in vitamin E and monounsaturated fats, which are thought to enhance brain function.

Studies have found that almonds can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, both of which may underlie anxiety.

As such, research has found that men whose diets are rich in nuts are significantly less likely to experience anxiety than those who consume the least nuts.

Yogurt in a wooden bowl.

#8: Yogurt, Sauerkraut, Kefir

In recent years, the fascinating link between the gut and the brain has started to emerge in research.

Termed the gut-brain axis, there seems to be an intricate system that links the gastrointestinal tract and brain.

This gut-brain connection is thought to be governed largely by the bacteria residing in the gut microbiome, which in turn, help reduce inflammation, produce key mood-boosting and relaxing neurotransmitters such as serotonin, promote a better quality of sleep and digestion, and reduce anxiety and stress as well as symptoms of depression.

For this reason, probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and tempeh may be some of the best foods to help anxiety, as probiotics help populate the gut microbiome with healthy bacteria.

Chamomile Tea

#9: Chamomile Tea

Chamomile tea is a calming tea that is often enjoyed before bedtime because the chamomile herb is one of the foods that helps reduce anxiety.

Although it is not exactly clear how chamomile reduces anxiety, it is surmised that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of chamomile may help lower some of the inflammation in the brain that is thought to be associated with anxiety. 

Furthermore, researchers believe that chamomile may help regulate some of the mood-related neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Another potential mechanism by which this food reduces anxiety is by helping to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, which is a hormonal response system central to the body’s stress response.

Some studies have indeed found that chamomile extract seems effective at reducing anxiety and decreasing anxiety symptoms. 

However, it should be noted that these studies use a concentrated dose of chamomile extract rather than regular chamomile tea, so the potency of chamomile tea may not be such that you will get a significant decrease in anxiety from the tea alone.

Still, whether it is a placebo effect or actual compounds in the chamomile tea that are lowering anxiety, many people find the mere act of relaxing and sipping a cup of warm chamomile tea is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety naturally.

Green tea.

#10: Green Tea

Another one of the best drinks for anxiety is green tea.

Along with many helpful anti-inflammatory antioxidants in green tea, it is a natural source of the amino acid known as L-theanine.

L-theanine has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety by helping prevent the overexcitation of neurons in the brain.

Studies have also found that L-theanine can help increase levels of neurotransmitters that decrease anxiety, including dopamine, serotonin, and GABA.

Another reason that green tea is one of the best foods to lower anxiety is that it is also rich in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant that helps increase levels of GABA and promote overall brain health.

A bowl of broken up dark chocolate.

#11: Dark Chocolate

You probably weren’t expecting to see dark chocolate on the best foods that help anxiety list, but this tasty treat actually contains quite a number of healthy compounds, some of which may help decrease anxiety.

Dark chocolate is rich in a certain type of antioxidant compound known as flavonols, particularly epicatechin, and catechin.

Research has found that these dark chocolate flavanols may help increase circulation to the brain and improve neuron-to-neuron communication while also providing a neuroprotective effect against stress and inflammation.

It is thought that these benefits of dark chocolate antioxidants help your brain adapt to stressful situations, which can reduce one of the primary underlying triggers for anxiety, depression, and irritability.

Furthermore, some researchers suggest that even just the fact that dark chocolate has a delicious taste to most people can help elevate mood and bring feelings of comfort and well-being.

Almonds.

This is an important point to note because even though most of the best foods to reduce anxiety have specific compounds thought to play a role in mitigating stress, the mood-boosting, relaxing nature of enjoying some of your favorite foods should not be overlooked when trying to decide the best foods to eat for anxiety.

The term “comfort food” is so named for a reason: almost everyone has certain foods that they associate with positive memories or calming experiences. 

As such, your own personal “best foods to help anxiety list“ may also just include some of your childhood favorites or other comfort foods that soothe your soul, bring you peace and happiness, or generally just make you feel more relaxed and happy even if they do not contain specific ingredients to reduce anxiety.

To learn more about naturally boosting neurotransmitters that promote happiness, check out our guide about increasing serotonin and other “happy hormones” here.

A person chopping tomatoes.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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