The Most Effective Foods To Relieve Anxiety

The Most Effective Foods To Relieve Anxiety

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Relieving anxiety without the use of drugs or pharmaceuticals means making changes to your lifestyle, including the foods you eat. Your diet can help to reduce anxiety but not all foods affect the body in a positive way; some can actually increase your symptoms. Choosing your diet carefully is therefore an important step as it can have a direct impact on the level of anxiety you experience. In addition, the right foods can have a positive effect on your mood. Let’s examine how to eat the right diet and relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

Steer clear

It’s important to make sure that you’re not eating foods which will actually increase your anxiety. You want food that will contribute to your overall sense of wellbeing in a positive way. Some of the foods which should be universally avoided include alcohol, refined sugars, fried food and carb with a high glycaemic index.

Other foods which you should steer well clear of depend on the level of anxiety you are feeling, and the circumstances in which it arises. People who suffer from panic attacks should avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee as it could actually trigger an episode by raising the heart rate. Conversely, anyone suffering from more generalised anxiety might find coffee beneficial. This is because caffeine in small doses has been shown to have a stress-relieving effect which can also improve mood. Therefore, depending on the type of anxiety you are experiencing from, coffee and other caffeinated drinks can either be your biggest foe or an ally.

Key foods that relieve anxiety


If you’re able to tolerate gluten, there’s a whole host of foods that could really provide significant benefits, such as wholegrain breads and pasta. Research has proven that foods which are genuinely wholegrain will help individuals suffering from anxiety, but it’s essential that the product really is wholegrain and doesn’t contain processed ingredients instead that make it look browner.

Some of the ways wholegrain can help include:

  • Increasing magnesium; wholegrain foods are typically high in magnesium. A deficiency can lead to symptoms of anxiety.
  • Tryptophan can be found in whole grains; this in turn is converted within the body to serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters which are responsible for providing a calming effect.
  • Hunger is reduced by wholegrain but it simultaneously creates healthy energy which in turn minimises anxiety.

The symptoms of anxiety can be significantly affected by wholegrain foods which are particularly beneficial as they deliver a whole host of nutrients that are otherwise missing from the modern diet.


Algae and seaweed

Many of the nutritional benefits provided by wholegrains are also delivered by seaweed. It is also a rich source of magnesium and algae like seaweed supply tryptophan, which means it’s a great alternative for individuals who have a gluten allergy or intolerance.

Acai berries

Acclaimed as a super food, acai berries have really been in the media spotlight. Although its weight loss properties have yet to be proven, it does have a whole host of other benefits, like having the same high content of phytonutrients as blueberries (which are widely recognised as one of the most beneficial berries to consume).


Undervalued Almonds

Almonds have lots of nutritional value including providing healthy fats, iron and zinc. The latter is particularly important for balancing the emotions, thus reducing anxiety. A good diet requires healthy fats, and iron is required for energy; a lack of iron can cause fatigue and exhaustion, which can, in turn, cause anxiety.


This one may come as somewhat of a surprise, but chocolate that has a high cocoa content and less added milk and sugar, like dark chocolate, can be very beneficial for helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Symptoms of both can be triggered by the release of cortisol, and the consumption of pure chocolate helps to reduce this hormone. As an added bonus, dark chocolate also contains compounds which are known to improve your mood.

Maca root

Powdered maca root

You probably won’t find maca at the supermarket, but it’s possible to find the powdered version of maca root in health food stores, so you can add it to food and drink. This innocuous looking root blows all other fruit and vegetables out of the pond with its nutrients. It’s believed that it contains a higher level of magnesium, iron and other phytonutrients than any other vegetable or fruit. Consequently, maca root is often used for both energy and endurance.

Other anxiety reducing foods

Without question, a good diet is one of the most important ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Simple yet effective, water is one of the most important factors. Research has shown that at least a quarter of individuals who suffer from stress are also dehydrated, which in turn can trigger anxiety. By increasing your intake of water, you could help to relieve some of your anxiety.

For the rest of your diet, any product which contains B group vitamins, especially magnesium B12, plus antioxidants or zinc could be very helpful in combatting stress and anxiety. Passionflower, kava and other herbal supplements can also be effective in combination with a balanced diet.

Using food to control anxiety

All of the foods mentioned above can be helpful for controlling anxiety. As well as helping to lift your mood, they can increase energy levels and provide the right combination of nutrients and vitamins to calm both body and mind. By avoiding foods which are detrimental, like fried food, and adding in some maca and chocolate (etc.) in the right quantities, you could see a very real difference in your symptoms of anxiety.

Although diet is a very powerful tool, it’s important not to assume that it’s a cure-all, particularly for server cases of anxiety. If your symptoms of anxiety or stress are affecting your everyday life or limiting activities, you may want to consider talking to your GP for further help. Even if this is the case, adjusting your diet will still help and can form part of an overall strategy to dealing with your anxiety and stress.