Nutrition and Anxiety
Clinically reviewed by Lindsay Turner, RD, LD.
Anxiety is a common mental health condition characterized by excessive worry, nervousness, or tension that interferes with daily life activities. The term encompasses several disorders, including social anxiety, phobias, and generalized anxiety disorder.
In some instances, counseling and medication are required to address the symptoms. However, in others, symptoms can be significantly reduced through practices like regular exercise and breathing techniques.
Researchers have also found that certain foods containing micronutrients that support brain function may help reduce anxiety symptoms.
6 Foods That Help with Anxiety
No food can “cure” anxiety. But the six foods below contain substances that may help reduce anxiety symptoms. Just be sure to check with your doctor before making changes to any anxiety treatments they’ve prescribed.
- Turmeric. This spice contains a compound called curcumin, which may support brain health and minimize anxiety symptoms. It’s also high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce the risk of various diseases and medical conditions. Turmeric can be both an easy and delicious spice to add to chicken and many vegetables. It pairs nicely with garlic, curry powder, and chili powder. If you don’t often cook with turmeric, you can get it in supplement form. You should talk with your doctor before beginning any supplement regimen.
- Salmon and other fatty fish. These fish are high in omega-3s, a type of fatty acid believed to have a strong relationship with mental health. Experts recommend eating at least two servings of fish weekly. Consider preparing enough for leftovers to place on a salad for another meal. Tuna packets can also be carried on the go for an easy snack.
- Chamomile. This herb, typically consumed as a tea, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to help regulate mood-related neurotransmitters. Study results have been promising, although researchers conduct most of them using chamomile extract rather than tea.
- Yogurt. The body has a complex system connecting the gut to the brain — the so-called gut-brain axis. Researchers are investigating whether yogurt’s probiotics and their proven benefit to gut health may also positively impact mental health. Yogurt can make a good standalone meal or snack, but consider something new, like dipping fruit in yogurt or trying a plain Greek yogurt where you may use sour cream.
- Dark chocolate. Few people would complain about adding a little dark chocolate to their diet! It contains flavonols like catechin and epicatechin that have antioxidant properties. These compounds may also increase blood flow to the brain and support cell-signaling pathways. Check the frozen fruit aisle at your grocery store to see if they carry frozen dark chocolate-covered fruit for a sweet treat!
- Green tea. L-theanine is an amino acid found in green tea. Researchers believe it has a positive effect on brain health and can reduce anxiety symptoms by lowering the level of cortisol, a stress hormone associated with anxiety. A substance called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in green tea may also play a role in reducing certain anxiety symptoms, particularly when consumed with L-theanine. This beverage can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Because of their ingredients, researchers believe there are other foods for anxiety symptom reduction, such as turkey, eggs, oats, bananas, blueberries, almonds, meat, dairy, and others. These foods haven’t been studied for that purpose but are also valuable as part of a balanced diet.
Get Help with Anxiety From Baptist Health
If you suffer from anxiety, our behavioral health experts can help. Don’t suffer in silence. Take action to address your symptoms and enjoy better mental health. Start by talking with your primary care doctor about your condition and how best to treat it.
If you don’t have a Baptist Health physician, you can find one near you using our online provider directory.