Feeling Anxious? These 10 Foods + Recipes Create Calm

by JJ Virgin on August 22, 2023

In a world full of constant stressors and non-stop hustle, anxiety can easily creep in and infect your thoughts, mood, and overall health. During those moments, taking a step back and nourishing your body can boost calm, reduce stress, and restore your sense of balance.  

What you put on your fork impacts every aspect of your health. The right foods have the power to help relieve anxiety and put your mind and body at ease, creating a supportive foundation for your mental and emotional health.

Especially when it comes to anxiety, taking back your control is mission-critical for your overall well-being.  

Anxiety’s Impact on Your Body 

Anxiety creates short- and long-term consequences for your physical health.  

In the short term, anxious moments—things like being stressed about a big presentation at work or dreading a difficult conversation with a friend—might cause physical symptoms, including:  

  • A rapid heart rate 
  • Uncomfortable gastrointestinal (GI) pain or indigestion  
  • Lightheadedness  

These and other unpleasant conditions result from your body’s “flight, fight, or freeze” response. During this response, your body releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which help you deal with your stressor in a focused, effective way. More blood flows to your heart, lungs, and muscles to provide the energy you need to escape the perceived threat.  

As your heart gets more blood flow (hence the more rapid heart rate), less goes to your brain and other areas, which can lead to those symptoms like lightheadedness. You might also feel tense and have “butterflies in your stomach.”  

Many of these symptoms disappear after the immediate stressor ends. But if that stress response sticks around when the body no longer requires it, chronic stress and anxiety can result. Over time, the repeated fluctuations in heart rate caused by anxiety can increase the risk of developing or exacerbating cardiovascular disease.1  

Your immune system suffers, too. The hormonal response in overdrive creates anxiety and stress that prevents your immune system from fighting off an infection.2 

And those repeated GI issues when you’re overwhelmed? Maybe you’ve had an upset stomach or changes to your appetite when your stress levels are high. There’s a correlation between stress and gut health. Research shows that IBS patients are more likely to deal with depression and anxiety.3 GI problems also disrupt communication between your brain and your gut, impacting your mental health and further disrupting your digestive function.4   

Stress and anxiety also contribute to chronic inflammation, otherwise known as the “secret killer.” Chronic inflammation plays a role in nearly every disease, in fact, including heart disease, cancer, chronic kidney disease, neurogenerative disorders, and autoimmune disease.5 

If stress and anxiety are bringing you down, Take Ten Stress Support can lift you back up. It’s formulated with GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps your body calmly respond to life’s stressors with a focus you may not currently feel. At the same time, amino acid glycine and B vitamins work to calm your body and give you the helping hand you need to make it through the day.* 

Food can play a role in managing anxiety and positively impact mental health. Incorporating specific foods may help support your overall well-being and potentially alleviate some symptoms of anxiety. Here are some of the top foods that can help you manage anxiety and support mental health.   

Foods to Help With Anxiety 

People have praised ginger’s benefits for literally thousands of years—it really is that good a remedy for seemingly endless amounts of applications. 

1. Ginger 

In the context of mental health, ginger is a great go-to for managing nausea if you’re experiencing anxiety that’s creating an upset stomach.  

It also has anti-inflammatory effects, helping reduce the increased inflammation that anxiety and stress can bring on. Plus, studies in animals have found that ginger can protect the brain against anxiety-related oxidative stress,6 as well as regulate feel-good serotonin levels to restore the imbalance that anxiety can cause.7 

I grate ginger fresh into cleansing smoothies and salad dressings, or use it to bring a little zing to stir-fried veggies. You can find it in capsule form if you want a supplement-style remedy, but simply using the powder in your spice cabinet, or chopping up the fresh root for tea is just as helpful. You may also be able to find ginger gum at the drugstore. 

2. Salmon 

Wild-caught salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly EPA and DHA. These omega-3s support brain health, reduce inflammation, and help regulate serotonin and dopamine, alleviating the hormonal imbalances that anxiety can cause.8  

Omega-3s might also help relieve anxiety symptoms by helping your brain more calmly and rationally respond to stress.9 

Wild-caught salmon is also one of the rare food sources of vitamin D, which may help with anxiety and depression. 10 Craving some now? I don’t blame you! I like this Detoxifying Asian-Style Salmon Stir-Fry (which also utilizes our anxiety-fighter ginger!). 

The truth is we can’t always rely on diet alone to get enough omega-3s. I use Omega Plus to ensure I’m getting the nutrients I need, including the important EPA and DHA that help relieve inflammation and anxiety and boost my brain health. Keep this easy-to-digest supplement on hand for days when you know you just aren’t getting everything you need through your smart nutrition choices!* 

3. Fermented Foods  

Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, some pickled vegetables, and kimchi greatly improve the balance of healthy gut bacteria and give your gut a healthy dose of probiotics. These work to strengthen the lining of your gut and promote healthy digestion. 

Plus, the probiotics in fermented foods help you better absorb nutrients.  

4. Blueberries 

Small but mighty, these tasty berries are high in antioxidants called anthocyanins, which help manage the inflammation and oxidative stress that may lead to or exacerbate anxiety.11  

Animal studies show that antioxidants in blueberries can manage inflammation and protect the brain to minimize the symptoms of more severe mental distress, including major depressive disorders and PTSD.12, 13 

One of my favorite ways to use blueberries is to toss them in a smoothie. Other times, I mix them up with this blueberry muffin recipe, or some overnight oats with blueberries and chocolate.  

5. Dark Chocolate 

Dark chocolate is also rich in the same antioxidant-rich flavanols that fight anxiety as blueberries.  

Researchers have noted that people who regularly consumed dark chocolate had a lower risk of mood disorders than those who didn’t.14 (As if you needed another reason to enjoy chocolate!)  

When I say to enjoy dark chocolate, I’m referring to a 1-oz serving of 75% or more of pure, dark chocolate. And don’t make it your bedtime treat, either. Enjoy it with dinner, and then close up the kitchen three hours before bedtime to ensure the optimal sleep that helps combat stress and anxiety. 

6. Chamomile Tea 

Chamomile has earned its reputation as a soother. It’s classified as a nervine, which is a type of herb that helps calm nervous tension and nourish your nervous system. 

Aside from its well-known calming properties, this flower also has anti-inflammatory benefits that help fight off the impact of anxiety.15 It may also alleviate depression and regulate hormones including serotonin and dopamine to restore balance to anxious brains.16 

My recommendation: Take a deep breath and enjoy a cup of chamomile! This tea is easily found in grocery stores and because there’s no caffeine, you can sip on it and reap the relaxation benefits any time of day. 

7. Green Tea 

I’m constantly sipping on green tea. Among its benefits, it can help lower inflammation,  help you lose or keep off weight, and alleviate anxiety. 

One reason for its calming effect: green tea has an amino acid called L-theanine, which increases calming neurotransmitters like GABA. L-theanine works with other compounds including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) to synergistically relieve the symptoms of anxiety and improve cognition.17 

I love enjoying green tea both ice cold and piping hot. Sometimes, I’ll even make a calming Superfood Iced Tea, filled with antioxidant-rich berries. Matcha, a powdered form of green tea, is also wonderful for adding to many recipes, including your morning loaded smoothie or even an earthy salad dressing. 

8. Pumpkin Seeds 

Also known as pepitas, these little seeds come packed with the beneficial flavonoids and antioxidants I’ve discussed above.  

Pumpkin seeds are high in magnesium, too. This workhorse mineral helps minimize the symptoms of stress and anxiety.  

Magnesium regulates your HPA axis, the mechanism that responds to stress. When your HPA axis isn’t functioning optimally, your stress hormones can become dysregulated, leading to higher levels of cortisol that contributes to anxiety.18 

Get enough magnesium, and your HPA axis functions efficiently. And a surefire way to reach your daily intake is to eat some roasted pumpkin seeds. I love sprinkling them on guacamole or adding them to a salad for some texture and crunch! 

9. Turmeric 

Turmeric is a warm yellow spice that has been used for centuries to treat a wide variety of conditions.  

The active component in turmeric is curcumin, a compound that gives the spice its yellow color. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits make it a great anxiety alleviator.19 

Curcumin also helps your body absorb the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (remember—DHA is that great anxiety-fighting omega-3 that you can get via salmon).20 

10. Foods High in B6 & B12 

While all the B vitamins can help, high amounts of B6 and B12 are particularly great for fighting anxiety.  

In one study, researchers found that people who took above the current daily recommendation of B6 supplements lowered their anxiety and depression symptoms. It turns out, B6 helps regulate the release of GABA, the neurotransmitter that helps you produce a calm, focused response to stressors.21 

Meanwhile, B12 deficiencies can contribute to mood disorders. Increasing B12 intake is a smart, safe approach to helping stave off the negative symptoms that impact your mental well-being.22 

Some of my favorite foods high in B6 and B12 vitamins include chickpeas; fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines; grass-fed beef; carrots; and cooked spinach.

Fighting Anxiety With Food 

Anxiety can have a significant impact on your overall well-being. It can manifest as a persistent and overwhelming sense of fear, unease, and apprehension that really hijacks your day. While they aren’t a cure-all, incorporating these foods can go a long way towards providing the nutrients your body needs to stabilize your mood and help you feel your best.  

Remember, if you’re struggling with anxiety or any other mood disorder, you never need to go it alone. Ask for professional help if you need it.  

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern. 


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