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Anxiety can be a real challenge to deal with. It can affect your thoughts, feelings and physical health. While there are many ways to manage anxiety, one important factor to consider is your diet. What you eat can have a big impact on how you feel. I am a dietitian that has helped many people manage their anxiety, so I know firsthand that food plays a BIG role! Below you’ll see some of the best foods for reducing anxiety and why they work.

How Does Food Affect Anxiety? 

You might be surprised to learn that your gut and your brain are closely connected. This relationship is known as the gut-brain axis. Basically, your gut and brain communicate with each other through a network of nerves, hormones, and other chemicals. This means that what happens in your gut can affect your brain and vice versa.

One way this connection works is through neurotransmitters, which are chemicals that transmit signals in the brain. Some of these neurotransmitters, like serotonin, are produced in the gut. In fact, about 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. This shows how important gut health is for your mental well-being.

When your gut is healthy, it’s easier for your body to produce the right balance of neurotransmitters, which can help regulate your mood and reduce anxiety. On the other hand, if your gut is unhealthy, it can lead to an imbalance of these chemicals, which can contribute to anxiety and other mental health issues.

Key Nutrients for Reducing Anxiety

To keep your gut and brain healthy, it’s important to include certain nutrients in your diet. Here are some key nutrients that can help reduce anxiety:

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats that your body needs but can’t produce on its own. They play a big role in brain health and mood regulation. Studies have shown that omega-3s can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Good Sources: Fatty fish (like salmon, mackerel, and sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and hemp seeds.


Magnesium is a mineral that helps regulate more than 300 processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function. It’s also known for its calming effects and can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Good Sources: Leafy greens (like spinach and kale), nuts (like almonds and cashews), seeds (like pumpkin and sunflower seeds) and legumes (like black beans and lentils).


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. They help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is important for overall health, including mental health. Some research suggests that probiotics can help reduce anxiety by improving gut health.

Good Sources: Sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented foods. Supplements are good well. Here is one that I like: https://amzn.to/3ymRUeB 

B Vitamins

B vitamins, especially B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are important for brain function and energy production. They help regulate the nervous system and can improve mood and reduce anxiety.

Good Sources: Legumes (like beans and lentils), eggs and leafy greens (like spinach and kale).

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is important for mood regulation and overall mental health. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to increased anxiety and depression.

Good Sources: Sunlight, fatty fish (like salmon and mackerel), fortified foods (like orange juice) and egg yolks.


Antioxidants help protect the body from oxidative stress, which can damage cells and contribute to anxiety. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which can improve overall brain health.

Good Sources: Berries (like blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries), dark chocolate, nuts (like walnuts and pecans), seeds (like flaxseeds and chia seeds), and colorful vegetables (like carrots, bell peppers and tomatoes).

Top Foods to Include in Your Diet

Now that we’ve covered the key nutrients for reducing anxiety, let’s look at some specific foods that are rich in these nutrients. Including these foods in your diet can help support your mental health and reduce anxiety.

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain health. Omega-3s can help reduce inflammation and improve mood. Try to include fatty fish in your diet at least twice a week.

Leafy Greens

Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are rich in magnesium and antioxidants. Magnesium helps calm the nervous system, while antioxidants protect against oxidative stress. Aim to eat a serving of leafy greens every day.

Fermented Foods

Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi contain probiotics that support gut health. A healthy gut can improve your mood and reduce anxiety. Try to include a serving of fermented foods in your diet every day.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds like pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds and chia seeds are rich in magnesium, healthy fats, and antioxidants. These nutrients support brain health and can help reduce anxiety. Aim to eat a handful of nuts and seeds every day.


Berries like blueberries, strawberries and raspberries are high in antioxidants, which help protect against oxidative stress. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that can improve brain health. Try to include a serving of berries in your diet every day.

Lifestyle Tips to Complement Your Diet

In addition to eating the right foods, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce anxiety. Here are some tips to consider:

Regular Physical Activity

Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce anxiety. It helps release endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help calm your mind and reduce anxiety. These practices involve focusing on the present moment and letting go of negative thoughts. Try to set aside a few minutes each day for mindfulness or meditation.

Adequate Sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for mental health. Lack of sleep can increase anxiety and make it harder to cope with stress. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.


Staying hydrated is important for overall health, including mental health. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and irritability, which can worsen anxiety. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.

Reducing Caffeine and Alcohol

Caffeine and alcohol can both increase anxiety. Caffeine is a stimulant that can make you feel more anxious, while alcohol can disrupt sleep and affect mood. Try to limit your intake of these substances, especially if you notice they make your anxiety worse.

Remember, small changes can make a big difference. Start by incorporating one or two of these tips into your routine, and gradually add more as you feel comfortable. Your mental health is worth the effort.

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