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5 Best Foods For Anxiety

While we’ve all felt the stress of job interviews, exams, or high pressure meetings at work, did you know that you can use your diet to reduce anxiety?

The food we eat not only has a big impact on our physical health, but it also supports mental health too. In fact, there are plenty of specific foods that help anxiety, reducing the impact of the stomach-churning symptoms.

In this article, we will talk through the best foods for anxiety, as well as how you can generally tweak your diet to reduce anxiety.

What’s the best diet for anxiety?

Before we get to the best foods for anxiety, it’s important to note that this list shouldn’t be a substitute for a balanced, healthy diet. In fact, following healthy and balanced diet can help to reduce anxiety naturally.

Also, while anxiety-induced nausea can put you off eating, it’s important that you don’t skip meals. By not eating enough calories per day, your blood sugar levels can dip, which can worsen symptoms of anxiety.

If anxiety-induced nausea is making eating difficult, try eating bland foods that won’t upset the stomach. Such as porridge, nuts and banana slices, which are great foods for anxiety related-nausea, as they are easily digestible and can increase mood-boosting serotonin levels.

Staying hydrated by drinking enough water is important too. That’s because when we get dehydrated, we not only struggle to produce serotonin, but it can also increase production of cortisol, the stress hormone.

However, it’s best to stay away from alcohol, which can lower mood, and limit caffeine intake as it can trigger the nervous system, causing restlessness, uneasiness, and an increased heartbeat.

For more information on what anxiety is, check out our blog on spotting the signs of anxiety. Otherwise, read on to find out five of the best foods for anxiety.

5 foods to help with anxiety

1. Dark leafy greens

Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and bok choy are perfect additions to your diet for anxiety. That’s because they are rich in lots of vitamins that aid brain function and regulate mood.

For example, magnesium can be found in dark leafy greens, which is a vitamin known to regulate serotonin, the chemical in the body that controls mood. Serotonin can also help to improve sleep, which is important for managing anxiety as well!

The high levels of vitamin B also make dark leafy greens the perfect food to reduce anxiety. This vitamin can help lower stress levels that exacerbate or even cause your anxiety.  

Try adding spinach to a curry or bok choy to a stir fry for a tasty and nutritional addition to a diet for anxiety.

2. Salmon

Salmon is a well-known brain food, but it is also a tasty and nutritious food that calms anxiety symptoms.

In short, salmon contains high levels of vitamin D. This vitamin can help manage anxiety symptom as studies have shown a lack of vitamin D can lead to increased feelings of anxiety. As such, increasing your vitamin D intake may help reduce symptoms of anxiety.

Fish contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids as well, which can help soothe anxiety symptoms. In fact, studies have shown that taking omega-3 supplements is a great way to aid symptoms of anxiety as well.

Other fish foods that reduce anxiety include sardines, mackerel, and herring, as they are also high in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. Alternatively, you can take cod liver oil tablets for a convenient way to increase Vitamin D.

3. Yoghurt

Not only does yoghurt stimulate gut health, but it is also a great addition to any diet to reduce anxiety – and it’s all thanks to healthy probiotics.

The probiotics in yoghurt can help reduce inflammation and increase the production of serotonin. Naturally increasing serotonin can alleviate anxiety, as this chemical is known for its impact on sleep, mood, and digestion - three key aspects for reducing anxiety symptoms.

When adding yoghurt to a diet for anxiety, it’s best to pick products containing healthy live cultures and probiotics, as those are the ingredients that can help alleviate symptoms.

4. Green tea

A hot cup of tea can help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, but some teas are better than others in a diet for anxiety.

For example, green tea contains high levels of L-theanine, which is a chemical that has been shown to support cognitive functions, sleep, blood pressure, and encourage relaxation. All of these play a vital role in reducing anxiety.

Bear in mind, however, some teas may worsen anxiety symptoms. For example, if they contain high levels of caffeine, which can trigger your nervous system. So, while green tea does contain caffeine, it is in low levels (30–50 mg per cup), making it a great substitute to black tea or coffee when curating a diet for anxiety.

5. Almonds

A tasty on-the-go snack, almonds are a well-known food that helps anxiety due to the vitamins and healthy fats they contain.

And, while it’s best to stay away from foods containing high levels of fat (as this can worsen anxiety symptoms) the fats found in almonds are actually good for your body. In fact, these superfoods have a range of health benefits, such as body weight regulation and protection from diabetes.

When it comes to foods that help anxiety, the vitamin E in almonds is the most noteworthy. A lack of this essential vitamin has been linked to low mood, as well as symptoms of anxiety and depression. As such, naturally increasing your vitamin E intake may help alleviate such symptoms.

What’s more, research shown that almonds may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, improving general heart health.

Other ways to manage anxiety

While there are plenty of foods to help anxiety management, there are many other ways to cope with anxiety as well. If you’d like to learn how to better manage stress levels, head over to our Be Healthy hub for more mental health and wellbeing tips. However, you should always consult your primary care practitioner for support on symptoms of anxiety as well.

If you’re a Benenden Health member, you can also speak call our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline for signposting and support.

Medically reviewed by Llinos Connolly on January 2024.