9 Foods That Help or Hurt Anxiety

Some foods can help your anxiety, while others can make it worse. If you suffer from anxiety symptoms and want to find out what food may be exacerbating your symptoms, or if you know you have an upcoming date with a stressful situation, we have put together a list of 9 foods that might help or hurt anxiety. Knowing the right drink and food can help you overcome anxiety and even reverse the situation if you suffer from such a health issue.

However, as per experts, all these foods and drinks must be consumed moderately, or they can also cause side effects. Using various foods and drinks that can help you overcome anxiety can be a viable option as it needs a slight change in your diet and prevent medication over a period. Hence, here are some options offered that can benefit you overcome anxiety.

Some top Foods That Help or Hurt Anxiety

1. Sugar

Sugar is ordinary in sweets, fruits, and other foods. It can affect your levels of dopamine - one of the neurotransmitters linked with your likings. How sugar affects your stress levels depends on a few things. Are you eating sugar in place of more nutritious food? If so, you may miss out on essential nutrients such as Vitamin C that help your body counter stress and anxiety symptoms. It is a common component in sweets, fruits, and other foods.

2. Coffee

Drinking coffee may help lower feelings of stress. The effects are most pronounced when you drink 2 to 5 cups daily. However, if you're not used to drink caffeine regularly, your anxiety may increase in the short term (less than a week!) as your body gets used to it and increases the amount of cortisol (the "stress hormone") in your body. If you drink more than 5 cups daily, your risk for dependence and withdrawal symptoms is higher than what is considered healthy or acceptable. Some people experience caffeine withdrawal when they try to quit. In severe cases, caffeine withdrawal can be dangerous; you should talk to your doctor before quitting.

3. Chocolate

Chocolate contains a chemical called phenylethylamine, which contributes to feelings of happiness and relaxation. It's thought that phenylethylamine works by increasing dopamine levels in the brain - the neurotransmitter linked to feelings of pleasure and well-being. Chocolate also has a positive influence on serotonin levels in the brain, which are involved in promoting feelings of happiness and joy. It contains both serotonin and dopamine, making chocolate powerful in improving mood.

4. Soy

Research has found that eating fresh fruits (and not eating fish) two nights per week can reduce anxiety symptoms over time. A few foods that contain phytoestrogens, a type of estrogen naturally occurring in plants, are soy and flaxseeds. These foods can help ease the symptoms of menopause and may also have a positive effect on anxious people. However, it's important to remember that not all phytoestrogens will have the same results; soy products containing isoflavones and lignans seem to be the most effective at reducing anxiety.

5. Walnuts

Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce anxiety symptoms by balancing levels of neurotransmitters called GABA and glutamate in the brain. This can help improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress. Experts have found that eating walnuts three times per week for four weeks is linked with reduced anxiety. One study also found that people who ate 5 ounces of walnuts for three months felt less grief and concern after the death of a spouse or family member than those who didn't eat walnuts. Walnuts are also high in melatonin - a hormone that affects your sleep patterns. Hence, it is essential not to eat too much at night, or you may experience insomnia.

6. Apples

Apples contain the same chemical called phenylethylamine that is found in chocolate. This is thought to have a similar effect on helping people with anxiety symptoms. Still, some research has found no link between eating apples and reducing anxiety symptoms. However, people who eat an apple 15 minutes before bedtime may have fewer anxious dreams than those who do not eat apples before bed. The reason for this is still unclear, but it could be related to the inhibitory neurotransmitters released in the brain during sleep.

7. Bananas

Bananas contain tryptophan - a type of protein that breaks down into serotonin (the neurotransmitter linked with feelings of happiness). It's also been found that people who eat lots of bananas and other foods high in tryptophan have improved moods, which can help reduce anxiety symptoms.

8. Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

In a study conducted at the University of Rochester, over four weeks, people with the highest vegetable intake (about 5.5 servings per day) had the lowest symptoms of depression and anxiety. The only way to ensure you get these healthy foods is by buying them fresh from an organic source. One more research has found that eating fresh fruits and vegetables (e.g., apples, oranges, potatoes) two nights per week can reduce anxiety. In this study, participants who ate fresh fruits and vegetables at least twice a week experienced a 19 percent decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

9. Pomegranate

A large study called the Australian Pregnancy Study investigated the effect of fruit, vegetables, and vitamin supplementation on depression. The results suggested that some foods have an anti-depressant effect; the anti-depressant effect has been attributed to pomegranate. Pomegranate contains anthocyanin - a type of flavonoid - which can help regulate your mood and reduce feelings of anger and stress. It also includes proanthocyanidins, which act as an antioxidant and reduce inflammation in the brain.


Research suggests that consuming these foods or supplements can help reduce anxiety symptoms. Still, there is not enough hard evidence to say it is a "cure" for anxiety or any mental health disorder. It is important to seek professional help if you have severe symptoms and follow their instructions accurately.

Updated on: 06-Feb-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started