We’re teaming up with Julie Harrington, registered dietitian and culinary nutrition chef in a monthly series focusing on the important role food plays in overall health.

Your diet can play an important role in how your body responds to stress and anxiety. Foods like salmon, avocado, chamomile tea and more can help reduce anxiety. Here’s a list of 9 foods to incorporate into your diet.

In this episode of Food Rx, we’re exploring what causes anxiety, what foods can help reduce anxiety and other natural ways to reduce your anxiety levels.

What is anxiety? What causes anxiety?

Your heart might start beating a little faster, your stomach feeling like there are butterflies, or you start to sweat. Anxiety is the mind and body’s reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations.

A certain level of anxiety is okay because it keeps the body stay alert and aware. When anxiety takes over interfering with everyday life and can be debilitating, could be an anxiety disorder.

What foods can help reduce anxiety?

While there is not one food that will just erase anxiety. Eating more foods that reduce inflammation and supply brain-specific nutrients has the potential to improve anxiety symptoms.

Salmon

Salmon is an excellent source of omega 3 fatty-acids, which studies show may help reduce anxiety. The DHA and EPA, found in salmon and other fatty fish are associated with lowering risk of anxiety but may also ease existing anxiety.

Think beyond the seafood counter when adding seafood when shopping for salmon. Utilize frozen salmon or canned salmon to help make it fit into your budget.

Prepare salmon as the entree of your dinner, have it in sushi, or even find premade packets of it to top off a salad!

Yogurt

Yogurt contains probiotics that not only keep our gut healthy but also help reduce anxiety. Gut health heavily influences our anti-inflammatory response. Strengthening the gut microbiome can help prevent inflammation compounds from entering the body.

The key to maintaining gut health with probiotics is to feed the probiotics with prebiotics. Prebiotics are fiber coming from plants.

Top with berries and granola as a parfait or even incorporate into a smoothie, yogurt is always a great addition to one’s diet.

Chamomile Tea

Chamomile (or just tea in general) tea has a calming effect. With the mix of calming aromas and warm mild flavors from the tea leaves, tea often works as a stress reliever and sleep aid. Sip on non-caffeinated tea at night.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are rich in magnesium, tryptophan, and fiber which can help feel less anxious. Whole grains also help maintain blood sugar levels which also helps decrease feelings of anxiety.

There are plenty of whole grains out there to try like quinoa, oats, brown rice, and buckwheat. Try adding a new whole grain to your diet each month.

Avocado

Avocados are full of monounsaturated fats healthy fats. Healthy fats help optimize circulation, which contributes to better blood flow to the brain which can help ease anxious thoughts.

Avocado is great in smoothies, salads, on toast, or a classic guacamole!

blueberries

Blueberries

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help with immunity and also have shown to improve the conditions of those with anxiety and depression.

Add some blueberries to smoothies, yogurts, and even pancakes!

Nuts & Seeds

Nuts and seeds are rich in magnesium, zinc, and antioxidants. Cashews are particularly high in zinc. Zinc maintains healthy nervous system function, which connects the brain to the body of messages of “calm”.

Add nuts to salads, pair with fruit, or enjoy on their own.

Close up of spinach leaves

Dark Leafy Greens

Dark leafy greens are packed with magnesium. Magnesium-rich diets have shown to have less anxiety-related behaviors so add some greens to your plate!

Some examples of dark leafy greens are spinach, kale, and swiss chard.

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a wonderful treat with fewer added sugars that can calm the body down! It improves one’s mood and reduces cortisol levels aka the stress hormone. 

What are other natural ways to reduce anxiety?

  • Stepping Back from Caffeine: Caffeine can often be a trigger for anxiety. Either cut back the amount of caffeine consumed or try switching to decaf coffee or herbal teas.
  • Self-Care: Take a step back and take some time to yourself. Whether it’s meditating, reading, painting, or any activity you enjoy doing it will help clear your head.
  • Joyful Movement: Keeping your body active whether it’s a daily workout or just walking around the block will help both your body and mind feel refreshed and re-energized.
  • Restful Sleep: A good night’s sleep is important. Not only does it reset your body, but it also gives your mind a break. Get a good night’s sleep to give yourself the full break you deserve.
  • Counseling: Communicating how you’re feeling whether it’s to a family member, friend, a professional is an excellent way to help handle feelings of anxiety. By talking out thoughts and feelings with others you’re able to feel support and know people are there for you in your corner.

For more tips to manage stress and anxiety, visit adaa.org.

Disclaimer: Before making any health or diet changes, please consult your doctor. The information shared as part of Food Rx is meant to be informative but not replace medical advice from your doctor.