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5 Foods That Reduce Anxiety

An overview of the symptoms and causes of anxiety, and then introduce you to some of the foods that may help to reduce it.

For those of us who live with anxiety, we know how debilitating it can be. Whether it is going into work for a meeting, socializing with a new group of people, or obsessive compulsiveness, anxiety can define your life experience, and keeps you from enjoying things that others look forward to. Anxiety isn’t a universal experience. Each person experiences symptoms differently.

Most mental health specialists recommend a series of mental and physical exercises to help reduce the feeling of anxiety. They may also prescribe medications, or recommend breathing or meditation techniques. In addition to traditional treatment options, there are other things you can do to feel better that you may not have considered.

Have you examined the relationship between anxiety and nutrition? Consuming certain foods and drinks, together with mental and physical exercises, could help control and reduce many types of anxiety.

Here, we will give you an overview of the symptoms and causes of anxiety, and then introduce you to some of the foods that may help to reduce it.

What are the Different Types Anxiety Disorders and their Symptoms?

Anxiety can be caused by a mental condition, stress of all kinds, a traumatic experience in the past, a physical condition, a side effect of a medicine, or a combination of these.

While there are different ways to categorize anxiety disorders, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services divides them into five major types, and defines them as follows:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

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Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions) and/or repetitive behaviors (compulsions). For example, a person might have to lock a door three times before leaving the house, or repeat a phrase five times before moving on. Performing these “rituals” provides temporary relief to anxiety, and not performing them increases anxiety in a person with OCD.

Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by unexpected and repeated episodes of intense fear accompanied by physical symptoms that may include: chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness or abdominal distress.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or had the potential to occur. Traumatic events that may cause PTSD include: violent personal assaults, natural or human-caused disasters, accidents or military combat.

Social Phobia (or Social Anxiety Disorder)

Social Phobia, or Social Anxiety Disorder, is an anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.

5 Foods That Reduce Anxiety

When the feeling of anxiety takes over, it is not uncommon to reach for that pint of ice cream or basket of French fries to give you a feeling of immediate satisfaction. Unfortunately, while these foods might give you a temporary mood boost, they may actually increase anxiety in the long run. This is particularly true for foods that are high in sugar or simple carbohydrates due to their effect on your body’s hormones.

If you know you have a potential to experience anxiety, it is important to make a conscious effort to avoid foods that may worsen symptoms, including: fried foods, high glycemic carbohydrates (white bread, sugars, candy), refined sugars (table sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate) and alcoholic drinks.

The good news is that you can eat more of other foods instead. Here are the foods you can enjoy more of:


Berries are packed with antioxidants, which help protect your cells from the damage caused by stress. They are also sweet, which can help fight sweet cravings caused by anxiety.

Try different variations of fruit to see what you like. For example, try freezing blueberries before munching on them. Their texture can help satisfy the craving for candy, while also providing important nutrients. You can also mix berries with plain yogurt and a small amount of honey, or try a few berries together in the form of a smoothie.

Leafy greens

Leafy greens, like spinach, kale, collard greens, or Swiss chard, contain magnesium, which may help reduce symptoms of anxiety. Make a green salad or spinach soup to get your daily dose of calming magnesium.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is full of components that will help you reduce your anxiety. Before grabbing a chocolate bar though, make sure to get the high-quality kind that is at least 70 percent cocoa. Chocolate, like the leafy greens, also have magnesium, and, like berries, is packed with antioxidants. Because it is considered to be a sweet, dark chocolate can also fight cravings. Make sure to only eat a little at a time, however, because dark chocolate is high in calories.


Cashews are a vegan source of zinc, a mineral known to help boost your mood and reduce symptoms of depression. Zinc is also found in oysters, liver, beef and eggs, if you are not a vegan.


Kiwi and citrus fruits are packed with Vitamin C. While you may think of vitamin C as what you are supposed to take to avoid getting sick from colds, studies show that it also plays a role in reducing anxiety.


While diet is an important part of managing and treating anxiety, remember that is also important to get the support you need from a medical professional, who will help you identify the cause of your anxiety and provide you with the physical and mental support you need to feel better.

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Sasha deBeausset
Sasha deBeausset is a nutritional anthropologist and licensed nutritionist with a B.A. from Tufts University and a M.Sc. in Food and Nutrition from the University of San Carlos. She has been awarded for her academic writing and research, and she has been blogging on food, health, and nutrition for over five years. Sasha is passionate about contributing to making quality and research-based information available freely on the web so people can inform themselves and make better decisions for their health.



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