foods for anxiety

6 Foods that May Help Manage Anxiety

Published on December 27, 2019 by First Responder Wellness

Most people experience anxiety at some point in their life or during very stressful situations, but for some individuals, chronic anxiety can be a symptom of a mental health disorder that disrupts their ability to function in everyday life.  Anxiety can cause psychological symptoms such as constant worrying, fear, and paranoia, as well as physical symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and muscle tension. While nothing can take the place of professional mental health care, it can be helpful to incorporate healthy lifestyle changes and holistic practices to manage anxiety.  One surprising way to alleviate anxiety symptoms is through the power of nutrition. The way we eat affects our mental health more than most people are aware of, and certain foods may offer specific benefits for those suffering from anxiety.

Pumpkin Seeds

In addition to being delicious, pumpkin seeds are high in potassium, an essential nutrient.  Eating pumpkin seeds has been known to help regulate electrolyte balance and maintain healthy blood pressure.  Pumpkin seeds and other potassium-rich foods, such as bananas, have been shown in some studies to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.  In addition to potassium, pumpkin seeds are a great source of zinc, a mineral that has been found to play a role in mood regulation. Zinc is found in the largest quantities in the body in the areas of the brain that control emotions, therefore eating pumpkin seeds might help replenish a zinc deficiency that could be contributing to poor emotional health.


Turmeric is a spice commonly used in South-East Asian dishes that has gained popularity in recent years due to its amazing health benefits.  Curcumin, the active ingredient found in turmeric, has been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in the body, and is a condition that has been found to be more common in people with anxiety disorder.  Curcumin has also been shown in studies to increase the production of docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, an omega-3 fat that supports brain function and reduces anxiety. This spice can be easily added to many recipes, including drinks such as tea and smoothies.


Chamomile is an herb often used in teas and natural medicines due to its many health benefits.  Chamomile is a well-established anti-inflammatory that is often used for pain management, has antibacterial and antioxidant properties, and can help you to relax and sleep.  Studies have shown chamomile’s relaxant properties, possibly a result of flavonoid phytonutrients, can help reduce anxiety in individuals experiencing high levels of stress. Chamomile tea is the easiest way to use this herb for stress management, and can be used regularly as part of an anxiety-reducing routine.

Green Tea

Green tea is another type of tea commonly consumed for its health benefits.  Certain properties of green tea have made the drink popular as a weight loss supplement in recent years, but it may also be a great way to help manage mood disorders.  Green tea contains an amino acid called theanine which can help reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. Additionally, the act of drinking tea is often seen as ceremonious, and can be used as part of a relaxation ritual or to practice mindfulness every day.  Green tea also contains less caffeine than coffee or black tea, so it is a great alternative for those wishing to reduce their caffeine intake to help relieve anxiety.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts are a great source of protein, fats, and other essential nutrients.  Almonds, for example, supply the body with vitamin E which has been shown to help regulate mood.  The protein found in nuts provides amino acids that assist in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, and help maintain emotional balance and mental wellness.  Brazil nuts, which are actually a seed, are high in selenium. Selenium has been shown to reduce inflammation that is commonly found in individuals with anxiety disorders. Selenium has multiple health benefits, including cancer prevention, but shouldn’t be consumed at high levels due to the risk of side effects.

Dark Chocolate

In addition to being a popular comfort food, studies have shown that dark chocolate reduces stress and anxiety, especially in women.  The mechanisms behind the connection between chocolate and mood are still unclear, but research suggests flavonoids and tryptophan content are involved.  Dark chocolate that is made with 70% or more cocoa is the best choice to avoid the added sugars and fats that come in many chocolatey treats.   

Nutrition is often an important part of treatment for individuals struggling with addiction and a co-occurring mental health disorder.  The First Responders Treatment Program at Simple Recovery uses trauma-informed strategies to cater to the unique needs of law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, and other first responders with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental illnesses.  We recognize that first responders encounter job-specific barriers and obstacles that come with the culture of their careers, and that existing stigmas may make seeking help for addiction and mental health issues especially difficult. Addiction does not have to mean the end of your career or a lifetime of struggling with your health and relationships.  By taking a holistic approach to treatment and addressing the underlying causes of addiction, Simple Recovery makes it possible for first responders to regain control of every aspect of their wellbeing. First responders dedicate their lives to protecting their community, and at Simple Recovery’s First Responder Treatment Program, we believe in dedicating our time and expertise to helping these compassionate individuals find a path to lasting sobriety and mental wellness. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call us now at 888-743-0490.