6 Foods That Can Help Combat Anxiety
by Ken Goodman, LCSW
Feeling anxious? Have some chocolate! In a previous article, I wrote about foods that can make your anxiety worse. In this article, I’m going share with you foods that can help reduce anxiety symptoms, relieve depression, and improve your mood.
- Dark Leafy Greens: Studies have shown a strong link between magnesium and mental health. Magnesium deficiency can cause irritability, depression, and anxiety. Leafy greens such as spinach, Swiss chard, and kale provide high levels of magnesium as well as folic acid and an array of antioxidants that can ease anxiety and improve your mood.
- Complex Carbohydrates: Oatmeal, quinoa, whole grain breads, whole-grain cereals, and other complex carbohydrates can help boost serotonin levels in the brain, resulting in a calming effect.
- Fatty Fish: Salmon, tuna, lake trout, flounder, and halibut are loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids that promote positive brain function and may help relieve depression symptoms often associated with anxiety disorders. Salmon also increases serotonin production, which helps promote a stable and balanced mind.
- High-Protein Foods: Protein helps stimulate the production of the brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine, which improve alertness, mental energy, and mood. Good sources of protein include Greek yogurt, fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, beans, soy, and lentils.
- Dark Chocolate: Dark chocolate—high in flavonoids, which help you relax, and phenethylamine, which helps enhance mood—is a sweet treat that also fights anxiety. Studies have also shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate every day can help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Foods Rich in B Vitamins: Studies have indicated a link between the B vitamins, including vitamin B1 (thiamin) and mood. Vitamin B6 can help control mood swings and anxious behaviors, while deficiencies in B vitamins like folic acid and B12 can trigger depression in some people. Foods high in B vitamins include beef, pork, chicken, legumes, citrus fruits, rice, nuts, and eggs.
Coping with anxiety often requires making lifestyle changes. While no diet can cure anxiety, adding these foods to your daily routine may help make a difference in your general mood and sense of well-being, which can make dealing with anxiety a whole lot easier.