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5 Foods That Help Calm Anxiety and Stress

Foods that help calm anxiety and stress are often simple and delicious. Try these five helpful foods to reduce anxiety and stress. They’re all good brain food.

Many foods help calm anxiety and stress. It can be daunting to how and when to make dietary changes to reduce anxiety and lower the effects of stress. Starting small is a great way to go about it, substituting a few healthy foods for processed ones - one at a time. To that end, we have five foods that help calm anxiety and stress that you can add to your diet immediately. Small changes make big differences in mental health.

Knowing why certain options are good foods for anxiety and stress can motivate you to eat healthily. In general, consuming the proper nutrients:

  • Allows the brain to produce necessary neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), chemicals needed to regulate mood and decrease anxiety
  • Decreases cortisol, adrenaline, and other stress hormones
  • Lowers blood pressure, which is not only good for heart health but also will positively affect anxiety
  • Boosts your immune system, which will keep you healthy—when we’re physically unwell, we suffer stress, anxiety, and other mental health problems
  • Increases blood flow to the brain to help the brain function well, thus reducing brain-based causes of anxiety
  • Decreases stress-related negative emotions

Incredibly, foods for anxiety and stress are easy to find, prepare, and eat. They’re everyday foods found in your local grocery store or farmer’s market. 

5 Foods That Help Calm Anxiety and Stress and How they Work

This short list of foods that help calm anxiety and stress can make a huge, positive impact.

  1. Dark Chocolate. Pure dark chocolate is made with cacao. The higher the percentage (it’s usually indicated on the label), the better for your brain. Dark chocolate drops the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol contributes to symptoms of anxiety.
  2. Pistachios. (And almond and walnuts, too). These are a source of Omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats essential for brain functioning. Omega-3s form brain chemicals, facilitate better nerve transmissions, contribute to new cell creation, and reduce inflammation. Through these important functions, Omega-3s contribute to the reduction of anxiety and stress.
  3. Grilled or Baked Chicken on Whole Grain Bread. A sandwich like this provides your brain with amino acids (from the protein) it needs to make neurotransmitters, hormones, and enzymes and improve anxiety on the neurochemical level. Whole grains are a type of complex carbohydrate that also stimulate the production of neurotransmitters as well as provide the energy needed to combat stress. Further, complex carbs have a calming effect, a welcome experience when you’re accustomed to anxiety and stress.
  4. Salt. Season your chicken sandwich with a pinch of salt (and only a pinch, because salt can cause harm such as increased blood pressure). The adrenal glands, which produce cortisol and another stress- and anxiety hormone called aldosterone, need sodium for regulation.
  5. Salad. Add a salad to your sandwich. Don’t like salad? Deconstruct it and eat the produce in separate bits. Fruits and vegetables are foods that help calm anxiety and stress.

    Particularly good choices are avocados, spinach, and oranges.

    Avocados contain Omega-3s and potassium; potassium decreases blood pressure and helps stress. Spinach has magnesium, which is used by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis. This is our stress-response system, and improper functioning is linked to anxiety. Magnesium also facilitates proper communication between neurons. Oranges and other foods rich in vitamin C curtail creation of stress hormones.

    We hear the message so often: eat your fruits and vegetables. It’s repeated for a reason. The nutrients in plants are good for our entire mind-body system. They’re high on the list of foods that help calm anxiety and stress.

When choosing foods that help anxiety and stress, think simplicity. So often in life, simple things are best. These five foods, eaten regularly, will make a big difference in your mental health (learn which foods cause, trigger or worsen your anxiety). Customize them to your own tastes, and gradually add others. Your brain will thank you by functioning well to stave off anxiety and stress.

article references

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2018, May 22). 5 Foods That Help Calm Anxiety and Stress, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 20 from https://www.healthyplace.com/anxiety/food-and-anxiety/5-foods-that-help-calm-anxiety-and-stress

Last Updated: May 15, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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