8 Foods that Help With Anxiety

8 Foods that Help With GAD photo

Foods that Help With Anxiety

We’ve been talking about the connection between eating and emotions. We lastly looked at depression, now let’s look at anxiety. Are there foods proven to help with anxiety?

We have all experienced anxiety – it’s a global condition. But there’s a difference between anxiety caused by situations and anxiety reaching the level of disorder. When a person experiences anxiety symptoms for longer than six months it’s possible they have GAD. GAD is a general anxiety disorder.

Medical News Today lists symptoms of GAD:

  • Fear
  • Irritability
  • Tension
  • Excessive worry about everyday events and problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Muscle tension
  • Issues with personal, social and work relationships
  • Heart symptoms such as an elevated heart rate and palpitations

As with depression, there are medical ways of treating GAD – CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and medications. Of course, you should always see a healthcare professional for issues such as depression and anxiety before doing anything else. You need to rule out other potential causes and establish the cause of your anxiety. After that, if you’re interested in natural ways of dealing with anxiety, there are choices. Meditation, scent therapy, and adjusting your diet are examples.

Physicians are becoming increasingly interested in how food affects our moods. Our brains have high nutrient requirements and any nutritional deficiencies affect the brain’s health and functioning. Diet affects the chemistry of the brain and the formation of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain that stimulate and calm).

8 Foods that Help With Anxiety

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Researchers at Ohio State University conducted a study that concluded omega-3 fatty acids are good at reducing anxiety. This nutrient is found in fatty fish like wild salmon, in flax seeds and walnuts and chia seeds. After years of viewing dietary fat as the bad guy, we now know how important certain fats are for our health, especially the health and function of our brains. Salmon has been in the spotlight a lot lately for its brain-boosting abilities. With vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), this fish may play a role in regulating neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These are the neurotransmitters that have calming properties.


Eggs, specifically the yolk (another previous dietary bad guy with a reformed reputation), are excellent sources of vitamin D. They also provide a good dose of protein and tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that assists in the production of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps control and regulate memory, mood, sleep, and behavior and is thought to improve the brain’s function and decrease anxiety.


Ok so it’s not officially a food, but water is absolutely necessary and has been found to contribute to moods, both good and bad. Lawrence Armstrong, PhD, says we do not experience the feeling of thirst until after we’re already dehydrated. Dehydration affects both our minds and our bodies.


Avocados are a good source of vitamin B6. B6 has a big role in creating neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which, as we’ve seen, affects our mood. B vitamins such as niacin, thiamine, and riboflavin have positive effects on our nervous system. There have been some studies linking B vitamin deficiencies to high levels of anxiety.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants that can improve brain function. These antioxidants improve blood flow to the brain and help it control and handle stress. It also can increase our levels of – you guessed it – serotonin. One study conducted with highly stressed participants showed consuming 40 grams of dark chocolate daily for a two week period can lower stress levels. Dark chocolate also contains tryptophan which is used by the body to create mood neurotransmitters like serotonin.


Yogurt contains Lactobaccilus and Bifidobacteria. However, it’s the probiotics in certain types of yogurt that have been shown to promote feelings of well-being. Studies have been shown that probiotics can improve mental health and improve brain function. They do this by inhibiting free radicals and neurotoxins, substances that can cause nerve damage tissue in the brain, leading to increased anxiety. Take note, though – not all yogurt contains probiotics. To ensure you’re getting your dose of probiotics, choose yogurt that has live active cultures.

Fermented Foods

A study done in 2015 found fermented foods reduce social anxiety in young people and many studies show consuming healthy bacteria like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria can increase happy feelings in some people.


Blueberries are great sources of vitamin C and antioxidants. These nutrients have been proven to relieve anxiety. Vitamin C also helps our body repair and protect our cells.


This is by no means an exhaustive list. There are plenty of websites and studies that go deeper into this subject. After checking in with your healthcare professional, do your research and find the numerous foods, drinks, herbs, etc. that can help you control and possibly alleviate your anxiety. A better mood and outlook may be just a meal away!

Image Credit: Yulia Furman/Shutterstock

Post by Andrea Rogers