Good Foods for Anxiety: Which Foods Help Anxiety?
Good foods for anxiety nourish your brain so it functions well. Anxiety can have a strong neurochemical component, which means that the brain is operating in ways that cause you to feel anxious. The brain’s workings—production of neurotransmitters and operation of all its areas and structures—are powered by the food we eat and liquids we drink. Good foods for anxiety, foods that help anxiety, are those that provide what the brain needs for wellness. Here’s a look at which good foods help anxiety.
It’s important to have the right mindset when thinking about foods for anxiety. Despite occasional claims to the contrary, there isn’t a miracle food out there that will cure anxiety. A nutritious, balanced diet is an important component in creating and maintaining a life with lessened anxiety.
Because anxiety is always there (at least for now), it’s important to reduce it by doing something steady and constant. Ingesting good foods for anxiety for meals and snacks supplies a continuous stream of nutrients for the brain to get well and stay well.
Nutrients Found in Good Foods for Anxiety
Researchers have pinpointed some of the essential nutrients for brain health in foods for anxiety relief. These include:
- The B vitamins (folate, B12, niacin, and many more)
- Omega-3 fatty acids
The brain uses these vitamins, minerals, fats, amino acids, and bacteria (probiotics) to do its job. For example, the brain makes its own neurochemicals (serotonin, dopamine, GABA, and others). How does it make them? By using amino acids such as tryptophan in the protein we eat. Some nutrients increase blood flow to the brain. Others reduce molecules called free radicals that are known to damage cells.
Foods that help reduce anxiety contain these vital nutrients. It’s easy to find these foods, and there are so many that you’ll quite likely find several that you can enjoy while simultaneously lowering your anxiety.
Examples of Foods that Help Anxiety
Good food for anxiety comes from a variety of sources. The above nutrients are found in proteins, complex carbohydrates/grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy.
Important to foods and anxiety is to what degree they are natural versus processed. The closer a food is to its natural state, the better it is for brain health. As foods are refined and processed, natural nutrients are removed, and oftentimes unhealthy ingredients like msg, trans fats, and hydrogenated oils are added.
Good foods for anxiety are pure rather than processed. These examples are categorized for convenience, but you will likely notice that a food in one category could also fit into others. Here, each item is placed in only one category for the sake of space.
- Brown rice
- Whole grain bread
- Whole grain pasta
- Whole grain rice
Nuts and Seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Albacore tuna
- Fermented foods (pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, etc.)
- Yogurt with probiotics
- Dark chocolate (in this category because, like some produce, it has antioxidants)
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Peanut butter (and other nut butters)
- Soy products
Good foods for anxiety sometimes aren’t foods. Beverages have an impact on brain health, too. As with food, opt for pure. Water, green teas, and herbal teas help anxiety by hydrating your body and brain and calming anxiety and stress. If your anxiety is exacerbated by caffeine, avoid coffee.
To be sure, the above lists aren’t comprehensive. The foods named have all been found by researchers to be good foods for anxiety. There are other foods, too, that help anxiety. The more natural they are, the better they are for your brain.
When it comes to foods for anxiety control, strive for a healthy balance. Select items from the above categories every day, and reduce the number of processed foods you consume. When your brain is equipped with the proper tools—nutrients—it requires, it will run smoothly. Good foods truly do help anxiety.
Last Updated: 08 June 2018
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD