Yeah. We said it.
But this feeling is also a necessary and normal part of life because anxiety in itself is, at times, beneficial. It warns us that something is not right and keeps us from potentially dangerous situations.
While our dangerous situations don’t exactly involve the dangers of saber-toothed tigers (anymore), the modern world is still filled with different scenarios that have our brain on hyperspeed about the future.
Will I lose my job if I don’t reply to this email? What if no one likes me — ever? Why am I feeling this way when everything is fine?
While these running thoughts are common, sometimes they can take total control of your life. When this happens, it can become an anxiety disorder (aka the most common mental illness in the United States, with about 40 million adults dealing every year).
Fortunately, whether you have an anxiety disorder or some temporary anxiety (you know — moving, relationships, exams, new jobs, and general “life stuff”), having a stable daily diet might help.
Top 9 foods for anxiety:
- green tea
- dark green vegetables
- dark chocolate
- chamomile tea
From balancing hormones to fueling your body, these are the foods that can help your body deal with stress and anxiety head-on. Learn how to make it a meal!
Incorporate yogurt into your morning routine to get a dose of brain-benefiting probiotics. Not only is it a convenient breakfast (hello, extra 15 minutes of sleep), it’s been shown to help lower stress.
From studies in mice to people with IBS, anxiety, and depression, researchers emphasize that probiotics may be at play for decreasing anxiety symptoms and balancing mood.
Another study looked at 67 individuals and found that the group which consumed probiotic yogurt daily was better at coping with stress.
Double down on those anxiety-fighting nutrients with some fresh blueberries too.
Blueberries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants, which research says to include in your diet for anxiety or depression benefits.
The current theory is that oxidative stress can affect mental disorders. However, the how behind it all is unclear — but what matters is if it works, right?
One study found that taking vitamin C daily reduced anxiety symptoms after 14 days.
Beat those morning “stressies” with a cozy cup of green tea. Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to ease anxiety and stress 1 to 3 hours after drinking 200 milligrams.
A typical cup of tea contains about 25 milligrams and takes about half an hour to 2 hours to have an effect.
When it starts working, L-theanine produces calming effects while stimulating dopamine, GABA levels, and serotonin in the parts of the brain responsible for hormones, metabolism (hypothalamus), and memory (hippocampus).
If you don’t want to be downing 8 cups of tea in one sitting, consider L-theanine supplements.
When it comes to greens, you can choose your own adventure: Spinach or kale? Both have awesome anxiety-reducing superpowers.
Some studies suggest that spinach has both anti-anxiety and anti-depressive properties, while the antioxidants found in kale help keep anxiety at bay.
For other greens high in antioxidants and vitamin C, try:
- collard greens
- mustard spinach
- swiss chard
But you don’t have to stick to greens only. The formula for building a perfect stress-busting meal is to include healthy fats and protein. For us, avocado and turkey are top choices.
Avocados are chock full of B vitamins, which is correlated with reducing work-related stress. And if you recall the sleepy but happy days of Thanksgiving, well, relive that with turkey (although statistically any meat or cheese will do this for you). The amino acid at play here is tryptophan, which in higher intakes is associated with less anxiety and irritability.
Pack some almonds for when those after-lunch, but-not-quite-dinner, snackies hit. Like avocado, almonds are rich in vitamin B. Heart-healthy almonds support brain function by balancing neurotransmitters and nixing stress.
These nuts also contain ample amounts of magnesium, another anxiety contender. Just one ounce of almonds contains almost 20 percent of your daily recommended value of magnesium!
Last but not least, dinner.
Omega-3s are healthy fats found in a variety of foods, including salmon, sea bass, shrimp, sardines, edamame, and kidney beans. These fatty acids are very often associated with decreasing inflammation and anxiety.
Out of foods rich in omega-3s, salmon is one of the best anxiety fighters. Salmon also contains vitamin D, which supports brain health and anxiety relief.
One study showed that out of 94 men, those who ate Atlantic salmon a few times per week for 5 months had less anxiety than men who ate pork, chicken, or beef.
Find salmon hard to cook? Try one of our seven simple salmon recipes you just can’t screw up.
You know those serotonins we keep mentioning? Well, the good news is that chocolate has plenty of these feel good hormones.
Studies show that eating about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily for 2 weeks can have a powerful effect on stress levels. This gives us less stress just thinking about it!
So, end your night with a piece of dark chocolate and perhaps some chamomile tea. Just keep in mind that it’s best to eat chocolate in moderation and to stick to the dark stuff (bars with at least 70 percent cocoa).
A salad isn’t going to prevent the feeling you get when emails or social expectations won’t stop coming.
In fact, the study about L-theanine found that cognitive performance didn’t really change, which sucks to hear but also take it this way: your anxiety isn’t you.
And there are many other therapeutic methods you can build and develop.
Think of your anxiety tool kit like a magician who needs more than one trick. Food is the natural source for you to maintain energy for all your other coping mechanisms, like breathing, CBT, and talk therapy.
Oh but before we forget, potential anxiety-inducing foods… here’s the official list:
- diet soda
- refined carbs
- added sugar
- processed foods
- soy sauce
That’s not to say don’t eat these foods! Just be aware of when you eat or drink them. Caffeine after 3 nights of no sleep? Probably not a good idea.
Tiffany La Forge is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer who runs the blog Parsnips and Pastries. Visit her at her blog or on Instagram.