Top Anti-anxiety Foods -Eat your Way to a Calmer You

Anxiety can affect us all from time to time, often making us feel nervous, pre-occupied and self-conscious.  Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health conditions.  In the UK, over 8 million people are experiencing an anxiety disorder at any one time and up to 1 in 3 people have a panic attack at some point in their life.

A growing area of research focuses on the food and nutrients we consume. Known as Nutritional Psychiatry we now understand the profound influence the food choices we make, and the role of certain nutrients can have on our mental health. If you’re looking for ways to calm your mind, try putting some of these foods on your plate.

Fatty Fish

The oily fish like salmon, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines and anchovies are all rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These have been shown in studies to improve our resilience to stress and calm anxiety. For example, one study published in 2014 found men who ate Atlantic salmon three times a week showed a significant reduction in anxiety. Try to get oily fish in your diet at least twice a week.

Green Vegetables

We all know vegetables are good for us, but some (like the leafy greens) are particularly beneficial being rich in magnesium and B vitamins.  These nutrients are important for the healthy balance of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Certain vegetables like asparagus have even been studied for their anti-anxiety properties. Try adding a handful of greens to a smoothie, snack on kale crisps, blitz up vegetables in a soup and accompany your meals with an extra side salad.


A great source of healthy monounsaturated fats which can help protect against anxiety, avocados are also exceptionally rich in B vitamins. B vitamins are essential in facilitating the production of the neurotransmitter’s serotonin and dopamine, which influence mood.

Fermented Foods

You may have heard of the gut-brain axis and for good reason. Our gut microbiome can have a profound effect on our mood. One review paper published in 2019 found that probiotic foods had a significant anxiolytic effect on anxiety. Try kefir, kombucha, yogurt, miso, natto, sauerkraut and kimchi.


Eggs are a nutrition powerhouse. High in protein including the amino acid tryptophan which aids the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin they are also an excellent source of choline, a nutrient known to ease anxiety and boost mood.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds particularly pumpkin, sesame and sunflower are packed with anti-anxiety nutrients, including magnesium, B vitamins, and zinc. They make an ideal healthy snack, or you could add them to a smoothie or scatter over Greek yogurt with fruit.

Dark Chocolate & Cacao Powder

Yes, dark chocolate can be good for the mind! A rich source of the calming mineral magnesium, chocolate also contains the neurotransmitter phenylethylamine, which is involved in regulating moods and releasing feel-good endorphins in the brain. Ideally choose dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao.

Green Tea

Green tea and matcha lattes have a great calming effect on your mind. Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea leaves, helps you relax and reduce anxiety while also keeping you focused on tasks.


Another useful warming drink. Chamomile appears to increase brain neurotransmitter activity of serotonin, dopamine boosting mood and lowering  anxiety. One 2016 study found that long-term use of chamomile extract significantly reduced moderate to severe symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).


Blueberries are high in vitamin C and antioxidants known as flavonoids, that have been studied for their ability to improve brain health and relieve anxiety. Part of the action may be in reducing oxidative stress in the brain and reducing spikes of the stress hormone cortisol.