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Foods that Help Ease Anxiety

Posted by Meena Eswaran, M.D., F.A.A.F.P. on Apr 28, 2018 8:45:00 AM

The food you eat plays an important role in your overall health, but did you know food has the power to either help or cause anxiety? You probably already knew that fast food and sugary foods are not good for you, but these types of foods can hurt more than your body; they can negatively affect your mood. Some of these bad foods can actually cause unpleasant physical reactions that can lead to shifts in mood, including irritability and anxiety. Sugar gives your brain a big dose of a feel-good chemical called dopamine, which explains why you are more likely to crave a candy bar than an apple, especially if you are already eating sugary foods. It’s important to choose foods that help to prevent anxiety before it even happens.

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Foods that help anxiety

  • Whole grain bread, which raises serotonin (the feel-good hormone) levels. And since whole grains digest slower, it causes a steadier release of this hormone.
  • Berries, nuts, beans, walnuts, or green vegetables, which have antioxidants that help to protect your cells from stress and can help ease feelings of anxiety.
  • Spinach, kale, collard greens, or any leafy greens that has magnesium, which keeps cortisol (a stress hormone) levels low and can help you feel calmer.
  • Cabbage, which has folic acid, vitamin C, and some B vitamins, that may help to ease anxiety.
  • Oatmeal, which will give you a steady flow of energy and a boost of a brain chemical called serotonin, resulting in a better mood.
  • Oysters, cashews, liver, beef, or eggs, which contain zinc that can help boost your mood.
  • Oranges, which have vitamin C that will help anxiety by putting you in a better frame of mind so you can feel calm.
  • Salmon, albacore tuna, and sardines, which have a lot of omega-3 fatty acids that can help with anxiety due to the fact that they can ease inflammation.
  • Tea – ones with certain herbs like lavender and chamomile – which may help you feel calm due to antioxidants in the tea leaves.
  • Dark chocolate, which has flavonoids that can help protect your cells, may help lower your blood pressure, boost the blood flow to your brain and heart, and make you less anxious.
  • Black coffee, which can boost your mood and energy. Be careful with coffee because if you drink more than four cups, it may make you feel jittery and anxious.

Foods that may cause anxiety

  • Sugary foods like ice cream, candy, jelly, cookies, soda, sugary fruit juices, bottled tea, cake and muffin mix, canned or packaged fruit, pudding, pies, snack cakes, pre-packaged muffins, cereal bars, prepackaged “healthy” cookies, instant hot cereal, breakfast cereal, bottled spaghetti and barbecue sauce, flavored milk, energy drinks, instant cocoa, yogurt, frozen breakfast foods, frozen desserts, and, of course, fast food. These can cause a spike in your blood sugar, which can bring a change in your hormone levels. You’ll first start to feel jittery, which will lead to crashes later in the day. 

Know when to seek medical help

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Keep in mind that healthy food can help prevent anxiety, but it’s not a cure for it. Your primary care doctor can recommend coping strategies or refer you to a specialist so you can manage your anxiety. Your doctor is there to help you and you shouldn’t feel you have to deal with your anxiety on your own.

Eswaran, Meena

Dr. Eswaran is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Clear Lake Clinic in Webster. Her clinical interests include preventive medicine, women’s health, and geriatric care.



Topics: foods that improve your mood, foods that help with anxiety, foods that raise serotonin


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