There is no one magical food that will cure anxiety, particularly in people who suffer from a severe anxiety disorder. But a balanced diet can help alleviate symptoms, and certain foods may have a calming effect. A nutrition research group in the U.K. surveyed 200 people and found that people tend to reach for all the wrong foods when they are stressed and that junk food can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety. Healthy eating choices led to an improvement in mood in 90 percent of cases.
POULTRY Poultry, such as chicken and turkey, contains tryptophan, an amino acid which increases levels of certain chemicals in the brain that help create a sense of well-being and relaxation, reports the Mayo Clinic.
DARK, LEAFY GREENS “Psychology Today” reported that a study by the U.K.-based Food and Mood Project found that an increase in vegetables in the diet can reduce stress. Dark, leafy greens are packed with B vitamins, which maintain nerves and brain cells and help convert food into energy. A B vitamin deficiency can increase symptoms of stress, according to the psychology magazine.
BANANAS Bananas contain both B vitamins and tryptophan and are easier to transport than many other food options. When people are stressed, they tend to eat high-fat and high-sugar junk foods that make stress worse, according to research by the Food and Mood Project. Nutritionists recommend that people who are prone to stress purchase healthy snack foods, such as bananas and nuts, to have on hand when symptoms of anxiety flare up.
MILK AND CHEESE Milk and cheese are good sources of tryptophan, the Mayo Clinic reports. They also contain tyrosine, an amino acid that helps cells synthesize proteins. According to a report in “Psychology Today,” tyrosine can improve memory function and may also alleviate symptoms of anxiety.
WHOLE-GRAIN BREAD According to the Mayo Clinic, an increase in carbohydrates can cause elevated levels of serotonin in the brain, leading to an improvement in mood. People with anxiety should choose complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain bread, over simple, processed carbohydrates, such as sugar. A study conducted by Australian physicians published in the “American Journal of Psychiatry” in 2010 found that people who consumed a diet high in whole, non-processed, “traditional” foods were at a lower risk for anxiety and depression than people who consumed a diet high in processed, fried or refined foods.
FISH The B vitamins in fish can reduce stress and also help the body fight disease and infection, produce energy and maintain a healthy metabolism, according to the American Dietetic Association. Fish is also a source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart.