According to a Nutritional Psychiatrist:the Best Foods to Reduce Anxiety

Millions of people worldwide suffer from the prevalent and crippling mental health disorder of anxiety. While there are many pharmaceutical and therapeutic interventions available for anxiety treatment, several foods and nutrients can help to reduce anxiety symptoms naturally. As a nutritional psychiatrist, I have extensive experience in researching and recommending the best foods to reduce anxiety. In this article, I’ll share my expert advice on the top foods and nutrients that can help alleviate anxiety symptoms.

What is Anxiety, and How Does It Affect the Body?

Before we dive into the best foods for anxiety reduction, let’s briefly explore what anxiety is and how it affects the body.

Definition of anxiety and common symptoms

Anxiety is a feeling of disquiet that can range from minor to severe and includes worry or fear. Some common symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating

Physiological effects of anxiety, including the fight-or-flight response and cortisol release

Anxiety can trigger the body’s natural fight-or-flight response, which prepares the body to face a perceived threat. This response can lead to the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause physiological changes in the body, such as:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Tightness in the chest

Short- and long-term effects of untreated anxiety

Untreated anxiety can have both short- and long-term effects on the body. In the short term, anxiety can lead to difficulty sleeping, poor concentration, and irritability. In the long term, anxiety can increase the risk of developing other health conditions such as digestive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and depression.

How Nutrition Plays a Role in Anxiety Reduction

Nutrition plays a significant role in mental health, and several foods and nutrients have been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms.

The gut-brain connection and how a healthy diet supports mental health

There is a bidirectional communication channel between the gut and the brain known as the gut-brain connection. A healthy diet that supports gut health can improve mental health, including anxiety symptoms. Eating a diet rich in whole foods, fruits, and vegetables can support gut health and, in turn, reduce anxiety.

The role of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and zinc in reducing anxiety

Omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and zinc are essential nutrients that have been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish, while magnesium is found in leafy greens and nuts and seeds. Oysters, meat, and pumpkin seeds all contain zinc.

How certain foods (e.g., dark leafy greens, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds) can boost mood and reduce anxiety symptoms

Certain foods contain nutrients that can boost mood and reduce anxiety symptoms. For example, dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale are rich in magnesium, which can reduce anxiety symptoms. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can boost serotonin levels and reduce inflammation. Nuts and seeds such as almonds and pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, zinc, and vitamin E, which can reduce anxiety symptoms.

The Top 10 Foods to Eat for Anxiety Reduction

Certain foods are more effective at reducing anxiety symptoms than others.

Dark chocolate:

Dark chocolate contains flavonoids that can reduce cortisol levels and boost mood.

Fatty fish:

Fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and boost serotonin levels.

Chamomile tea:

Chamomile tea has anti-anxiety properties and can help reduce stress.


Blueberries contain antioxidants that reduce inflammation and protect the brain from oxidative stress.

Fermented foods:

Fermented foods contain probiotics that can improve gut health and reduce anxiety symptoms.


Turmeric contains curcumin, an active ingredient that has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce anxiety symptoms.

Brazil nuts:

Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium, a mineral that supports mood and reduces anxiety.


All types of berries (e.g., strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries) have mood-boosting and anxiety-reducing properties.


Eggs contain choline, which supports brain health and can reduce anxiety.


Avocado is a great source of healthy fats, which can reduce inflammation and support brain health.

The Top 10 Foods to Avoid for Anxiety Reduction

Certain foods should be avoided or limited as they can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.


Caffeine can trigger anxiety, increase heart rate and disrupt sleep.


Alcohol can disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain, leading to mood swings and anxiety.

Processed foods:

Processed foods contain additives and preservatives that can trigger inflammation and exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

Fried foods:

Fried foods can lead to inflammation and disrupt gut health, leading to anxiety symptoms.

High-sugar foods:

High-sugar foods can lead to inflammation and mood swings that increase anxiety symptoms.

Artificial sweeteners:

Artificial sweeteners can disrupt gut health and lead to anxiety symptoms.


Lactose intolerance can lead to digestive distress, which can trigger anxiety symptoms.


Gluten can trigger inflammation and immune system dysfunction, leading to anxiety symptoms.

Red meat:

Red meat is high in saturated fat, leading to inflammation and exacerbating anxiety symptoms.

Processed meats:

Processed meats contain additives and preservatives that can trigger inflammation and worsen anxiety symptoms.

How to Incorporate Anxiety-Reducing Foods into Your Diet

Here are some tips on how to incorporate anxiety-reducing foods into your diet:

Tips for meal preparation and planning that will help you feel less anxious when eating

Plan your meals around anxiety-reducing foods, such as fatty fish, leafy greens, and legumes.

Grocery shopping and storage tips for anxiety-reducing foods

Buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that can be stored at room temperature for easy access.

Cooking and recipe ideas for anxiety-reducing meals and snacks

Try recipes with anxiety-reducing foods such as berry smoothies, fish tacos, and avocado toast.

Restaurants and dining-out tips for anxiety-reducing eating

Choose restaurants that offer healthful options, such as salads with mixed greens and grilled fish.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Anxiety

To reduce anxiety symptoms, several lifestyle changes can help in combination with nutrition.

Exercise and physical activity:

Regular exercise can reduce anxiety symptoms and boost mood.

Meditation and mindfulness:

Relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness can reduce stress and anxiety symptoms.

Sleep hygiene:

Getting enough high-quality sleep can reduce anxiety symptoms.

Social support and connection:

Spending time with friends and loved ones can reduce anxiety symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions About Anxiety and Nutrition

How long does it take for dietary changes to reduce anxiety symptoms?

In general, dietary changes may take several weeks to several months to see an improvement in anxiety symptoms.

Can supplements help reduce anxiety symptoms?

Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, and zinc have been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in some cases.

Is it possible to have too much of the anxiety-reducing foods and nutrients we’ve discussed?

Yes, it is possible to have too much of certain foods and nutrients, so it is essential to follow a balanced diet.

Can anxiety be cured with nutrition alone?

Nutrition can reduce anxiety symptoms, but a comprehensive treatment plan that includes medication, therapy, or other interventions may be needed.

How much of an impact does nutrition have on anxiety compared to other treatment options?

Nutrition can have a significant impact on anxiety reduction, but it is essential to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment plan.


Anxiety is a complex condition, and while medication and therapy can be helpful, nutrition plays a critical role in anxiety reduction. By incorporating anxiety-reducing foods into your diet and making other lifestyle changes, you can reduce anxiety symptoms and lead a happier, healthier life.

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