11 Foods That Fight Anxiety and Stress, According to a Nutritionist

food for anxiety and stress


People can make a variety of lifestyle changes to help manage their anxiety. Eating a diet high in vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein can be helpful.

Anxiety is a widespread condition, affecting millions of people globally. Symptoms vary, and some people only experience them now and then. However, someone who experiences symptoms for 6 months or longer may have a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

The symptoms of GAD include psychological and physical symptoms, such as:

  • fear
  • tension
  • excessive worry about everyday events and problems
  • irritability
  • difficulty concentrating
  • issues with their personal social and work relationships
  • heart palpitations, elevated heart rate
  • muscle tension
  • chest tightness

Doctors often treat GAD with a combination of treatments, including talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), alongside medications. Sometimes, these conventional treatments do not work long-term. However, some research suggests that proper nutrition can help improve symptoms.

1. Kiwi
Some initial studies also indicate that the combo of vitamins C and E plus folate may help to reduce oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic inflammation. Plus, they may help to promote serotonin production, the neurotransmitter associated with well-being and happiness.

2. Seafood
Seafood is another under-consumed food in the U.S. and there’s early evidence to support adequate intake (8-12 ounces per week) with a cognitive boost and mood enhancement due to the essential omega-3 fatty acids. Try adding more salmon, mackerel, sardines, and shellfish to your plate, or algal oil if you're vegan or vegetarian.

3. Avocado
This nutrient-packed fruit is filled with vitamin B6 and magnesium, a combo that may help with serotonin production in your brain. Adding avocado slices to omelets, salads, and even smoothies will also help you get more fiber and healthy fats in your diet.

4. Cherries
Cherries contain antioxidants like quercetin, which can help promote feelings of calmness. Eating more fruits and veggies in general has also been linked to decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression and increased happiness levels. Some studies have shown that eating five or more servings per day helps boost your mood, yet according to the Centers for Disease Control, only 10% of Americans hit that recommendation.

5. Dark Chocolate
Its bitter flavor profile is polarizing for some, but promising research could tip the scales in favor of a frequent treat. A 2019 survey-based study published in the journal Depression & Anxiety suggests that people who eat dark chocolate regularly are less likely to report depressive symptoms. While more research is needed to confirm any causation due to the study's limited size, adding a small amount in your routine certainly can't hurt.

6. Chamomile Tea
Who doesn't love a cup of warm, soothing cup of tea after a long day? If you can, spring for chamomile: A 2016 clinical trial, with results published in the journal Phytomedicine, suggests that those who drank this tea over a long-term period "significantly" reduced severe generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. Chamomile's role in anxiety reduction may have something to do with it's ability to enhance your efforts to get to sleep on time.

8. Pumpkin Seeds
An ounce of pumpkin seeds provides nearly 20% of your daily value of magnesium, plus potassium. Sprinkle these seeds (and nuts, like walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, and cashews) on your meals or snack on 'em plain for a nutrient boost.

9. Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, and kimchi contain probiotics, the friendly bacteria that live in your GI tract and help defend against harmful pathogens and microbes. Eating more probiotics can help take care of your gut microbiome, potentially benefiting that gut-brain connection.

10. Plain Greek Yogurt
Yogurt provides key minerals that may help with symptoms of stress and stabilize mood, but it also provides probiotics. Look for plain, unsweetened versions with at least five strains of live and active cultures on the ingredients' list to use in breakfasts, snacks, and dips.

11. Milk
It may sound like an old wives' tale, but there’s some science behind the time-honored glass of milk before bed. A cup of milk provides minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Magnesium in particular has been studied for its role in anxiety — yet 68% of Americans aren't getting enough of this mineral.

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