stress and anxiety

5 Best Foods to Relieve Stress and Anxiety

stress and anxiety

With the current lifestyle changes, stress and anxiety are increasingly becoming common mental disorders. Symptoms vary from one person to another, hence the difference in treatment modalities.

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If you are struggling to recover from these conditions, management shouldn’t stop at therapy and medication. A growing body of evidence suggests strong correlations between gut and mental health, including anxiety.

Therefore, effective management of stress and anxiety should involve medication, regular therapy, and an effective diet.

Outlined below are some of the best foods that have proven efficacy in managing stress and anxiety.

1. Fatty Fish

Fatty fish is highly rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which strongly boosts general mental health and human cognitive functioning. Omega 3 acids are common polyunsaturated fats that help in the growth and development of brain cells, which alleviate common anxiety symptoms. Foods rich in fatty fish include salmon, sardines, herring, trout, and mackerel.

food intake in stress

Good eating habits can keep you away from mental diseases

Omega 3 rich foods are rich in alpha-linolenic acids, which contain two essential fatty acids. The essential fatty acids include the docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids [1*] , which regulate vital neurotransmitters, enhance brain functioning, and reduce inflammation.

That said, current dietary recommendations suggest that those suffering from stress and anxiety should take at least two servings per week. On the flip side, note that eating too much omega-6 and less omega-3 increases the chances of developing mood conditions, including anxiety.

2. Brazil Nuts

The best diets for stress and anxiety should be rich in minerals that benefit the brain. Brazil nuts contain selenium, which improves mood by reducing brain cell inflammation. Brain inflammation is highly recorded in patients suffering from anxiety and other mood disorders. Besides reducing inflammation, selenium is a powerful antioxidant, which prevents brain cell damage.

Brazil nuts are also an excellent source of Vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are best for managing stress and anxiety based on conclusive research that individuals with low Vitamin E levels have high risks of depression and mental disorders. Besides, Brazil nuts are anti-carcinogenic, which slows or prevents cancer growth.

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Apart from Brazil nuts, other foods rich in selenium include mushrooms, animal products, other nuts, and soybeans. Despite these benefits, consuming too much selenium can be harmful. Adults should take a maximum of 400mcg per day. Therefore, if you use selenium supplements, you shouldn’t take more than three Brazil nuts per day.

3. Dark Chocolate

For long, dark chocolate has been suspected to be effective in reducing stress [2*] and anxiety. This came after a study concluded that approximately 40g of chocolate significantly reduced stress in female participants. Other general studies have significant findings on the effectiveness of dark chocolate and cocoa in improving mood. However, most of these studies are not conclusive; thus, dark chocolate should be used cautiously.

Despite the inconclusive studies, dark chocolate is known to be rich in polyphenols. Flavonoids, which are the main polyphenols in dark chocolate [3*] , actively increase brain blood flow, reduce neurons’ inflammation and brain cell death.

Dark chocolate also contains tryptophan, which is converted by the body into serotonin, a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter in the brain. Including dark chocolate in the diet additionally increases magnesium levels, which effectively reduce the symptoms associated with depression. Dietary recommendations of dark chocolate should not exceed 70 percent. Since they contain sugars and fats, a maximum of 3 grams is enough.

emotional eating in stress

Avoid emotional eating and adopt healthy eating to alleviate mental issues

4. Yogurt

Another excellent food that can relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety is yogurt. Yogurt contains bifidobacteria and lactobacillus, which are healthy and beneficial bacteria for the body. Various studies have concluded that these bacteria and other fermented foods positively affect the brain’s health. Yogurt and dairy products also have an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing inflammation in the brain responsible for stress, anxiety, and depression.

A study done on young people concluded that fermented foods significantly reduced social anxiety. Multiple research studies also found that consuming healthful bacteria led to elevated mood and increased happiness.

5. Blueberries

Anxiety and stress often make the body crave for Vitamin C. These vitamins are essential in repairing and protecting the body cells. Despite being small, blueberries pack a lot of vitamin C. They are also rich in antioxidants, which significantly relieve anxiety. Most people often take sugars when anxious. However, this worsens anxiety symptoms as they predispose the brain to depressive symptoms of anxiety. As such, the sweetness brought by blueberries is a better option.

Other best foods that relieve stress and anxiety you can include in your diet include eggs, pumpkin seeds, chamomile, turmeric, and green tea. They contain essential nutrients and minerals that boost brain functioning.

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Apart from therapy and medications, symptoms of anxiety can be alleviated effectively with a proper diet. Generally, patients with stress and anxiety should include whole foods, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and legumes in their diets. This provides a varied yet balanced diet, full of high-quality and nutrient-rich proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

You should as well avoid diets full of processed foods, as they can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

For effective guidance on stress and anxiety medication and diet, schedule an appointment with EZCare clinic for immediate services.


+3 sources
  1. Eicosapentaenoic acid versus docosahexaenoic acid in mild-to-moderate depression: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. (2013)
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  2. Effects of chocolate intake on Perceived Stress; a Controlled Clinical Study. (2014)
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  3. 8 Healthy Reasons to Eat Dark Chocolate. (2022)
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Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team of experts strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. The numbers
in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.