Feeling Anxious? These Five Foods Might Help You

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 40 million adults in the United States (roughly 18 percent) struggle with anxiety. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S.

Despite how common anxiety is, when you're in the midst of a very stressful, anxiety-filled time it can be hard to remember that what you're feeling is normal. It can be hard to imagine you're every going to feel normal again. It can be hard to imagine anything can help.

But according to some experts, there is something you can do. And thankfully, it's something you probably like to do.


In a post for Harvard University's health blog, Dr. Uma Naidoo, an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explains that one's diet can play an important role in helping to manage anxiety.

"In addition to healthy guidelines such as eating a balanced diet, drinking enough water to stay hydrated, and limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine, there are many other dietary considerations that can help relieve anxiety," writes Dr. Naidoo.

"For example, complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling."

So, with that in mind, here are five specific foods studies have shown can help to quell—or at least ease—anxiety:

1. Leafy greens

Studies have shown that diets that are low in magnesium lead to an increase in anxiety in mice. Therefore, it's thought that leafy greens—like spinach and swiss chard, which are high in magnesium—may help a person to feel calmer.

2. Chamomile tea

It seems the British were on to something with that "tea fixes everything "mentality.

A 2009 study from the University of Pennsylvania found that chamomile in particular can significantly decrease anxiety symptoms.

3. Wild Alaskan salmon

Over the years there have been many studies supporting the link between a diet rich in omega-3s, like those found in fatty fish like wild Alaskan salmon and grass-fed beef, and lower depression and anxiety rates.

4. Oysters

Foods rich in zinc—such as oysters, cashews, beef, liver, and egg yolks—have been linked to lowered anxiety in studies on both rats, and humans.

5. Pickles

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the relation between the bacteria in your gut and your overall health. And, included in that overall health is a link between a diet rich in probiotic foods—pickles, sauerkraut, kefir—and lowered anxiety.

"Be sure to talk to your doctor if your anxiety symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks," Dr. Naidoo writes. "But even if your doctor recommends medication or therapy for anxiety, it is still worth asking whether you might also have some success by adjusting your diet."

She explains that while nutritional psychiatry, or as she prefers to call it, Psycho-Nutrition (side note: ha!), isn't a substitute for other treatments, it can be a real help.