Nourish your Body to Reduce Anxiety and Depression
The idea that anxiety and depression could be linked to the foods we eat might be considered strange. You might be wondering how can foods help with how we feel emotionally? Working through and beating anxiety and depression isn’t only done through seeing your therapist or taking medication. If you’ve found that you are still struggling despite your best efforts with engaging in therapy and taking medication, maybe it’s time to look at what you’re putting inside your body. There is growing scientific evidence to show what we eat can influence how we feel. So let’s look at foods that help with anxiety and depression specifically.
Please note however that eating the right foods alone may not necessarily improve your anxiety and depression. Improving one’s mental health usually takes multiple strategies and actions.
Nutritional deficiencies can alter the brain chemistry and the formation neurotransmitters which can affect moods such as anxiety and depression.
So it can help to look into foods that can support the brain so let’s take a look below.
What is Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety is where one feels a heightened nervousness, worry, and fears that can either be acute or ongoing. It can be debilitating for some while for others, it depends on the situation. Often one’s thoughts are focused with a future orientation. Some thoughts will often start with ‘what if’ and many think of things that haven’t happened yet, but these thoughts contribute to anxiety. It is a very common condition that can be treated through either medication, talk therapy or nutrition. A combination is usually most effective rather than medication alone.
Depression is a mental health issue where one feels ongoing sadness for over 6 months continuously. It can lead to loss of interest in usual activities, increased sleep. Find it hard to get out of bed. Can lead to individuals not wanting to engage in social interactions. Many find that ongoing ruminating negative thoughts contribute to how this condition can evolve and develop.
Links between Physical and Mental Health
Our gut health is vital in being able to utilize the nutrients that we put into our body. The gut is now considered to be the second brain of our body. Since it’s where we get all foods digested and then used by our organs, including out brain, it’s essential to put into our body nourishing nutritious foods.
Gut health needs to be balanced with 80% good bacteria and 20% bad bacteria. Our gut health can get out of balance if we take antibiotics, or eat foods that are processed such as take away and sugary sweet foods.
Fibre also helps in the digestion process helping maintain the 80/20 ratio balance for our gut which has also been linked to improved gut health and better mood.
Hormones Involved in Mood
You may have heard of happy hormones, but what are they exactly? Our bodies function with the production and effective use of hormones. When our hormones are being produced optimally, our general well being increases too. The hormones that we need in order to feel good include oxytocin, GABA – or gamma-aminobutyric acid, dopamine and serotonin. Studies show that when these hormones are depleted or low, an individual reports higher anxiety and depression.
Impact of Inflammation
If we are eating a diet high in processed foods with trans fats and processed polyunsaturated fats, our body becomes inflamed. When our bodies are under stress in cases such as inflammation, some hormones don’t work well such as insulin. This leads to health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes. This can be prevented by eating foods that are real, not processed, and nutrient dense. If our bodies are being inflamed, we experience a wide range of health conditions as well as mental health concerns. Our brains too can be affected by inflammation which is in turn affects our mental health. So in an effort to reduce inflammation, it’s important to ensure the body receives what it needs to allow it to heal including antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and nutrition.
A low carb high healthy fat diet is recommended in reducing inflammation in the body. When inflammation is reduced, our organs function better which lead to our hormones responding better and working more efficiently. This is how important reducing inflammation is to allow our brains to work well and lower the incidence of anxiety and depression. As mentioned earlier, anxiety and depression is higher in those who aren’t producing the neurotransmitters that are created from hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA and oxytocin. Hence the importance of having a diet high in nutrient dense foods, and low in processed, unhealthy fats.
Nutrients that Decrease Anxiety and Depression
There are a number of important nutrients that help build and promote neurotransmitters that are required for reducing anxiety and depression.
These are listed below:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin D also aids in promoting calming neurotransmitters which help reduce anxiety
- Omega 3
- Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps produce serotonin in the brain.
- Antioxidants also help with boosting ones mood and helping lower levels of depression and anxiety.
Foods That Help with Anxiety and Depression
- Fish – specifically salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout are all high in omega 3 which is important for our brains to function properly.
- Meat including beef and chicken, turkey
Fruits and Vegetables
- Avocados – as they are high in magnesium and vitamin B6 which both help with anxiety.
- Blueberries are also high in antioxidants which can also increase serotonin
- Bell Peppers
Nuts and Seeds
- Almonds are high in Vitamin E
- Walnuts – high in Omega 3 which is good for the brain
- Brazil Nuts – high in Selenium
- Cashew – for zinc which also helps lower anxiety.
- Chia seeds – high in Omega 3 (benefits the brain)
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds – contain high magnesium and potassium
Herbs and Spices
- Chamomile – contains antioxidants which contribute to reducing inflammation that helps manage anxiety and depression levels.
- Turmeric – also known as Curcumin which helps brain health. It too is an antioxidant and anit-inflammatory
- Hemp seed oil – due to it’s fatty acid content, polyphenols and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Flaxseed oil – also due to it’s omega 3, and is anti-inflammatory.
- Low or sugar free
It improves brain health and allows the brain to adapt to stressful situations. It has been shown to increase levels of serotonin. You do not need to eat much of this to gain the nutritional benefits!
- Kefir and
- Some cheeses
These all contain probiotics which also help decrease anxiety and depression too.
They feed the good bacteria in your gut which helps your body digest all those nutrients you are feeding it.
- Green Tea – as it contains polyphenols, antioxidants and L-theanine which has been shown to reduce anxiety. L- theanine also helps increase dopamine, serotonin and GABA.
- Water – studies have shown that mild dehydration can contribute to increased mood problems. So keep hydrated.
- Chamomile tea and herbal teas in general. Excluding Ginseng as this increases anxiety.
- Kava Kava
If you are struggling to consume the variety of the above foods, it can also help to use herbal supplements. You won’t likely need to take supplements if you are eating a wide range of the foods listed here. However if you are time poor or not able to have the variety for some reason, consider taking supplements as a way to support your mood and body to ensure you can reduce your levels of anxiety and depression.
The Natural Approach
As a way to combine strategies that help you lower your experience of anxiety, you can also consider doing things listed in a previous post which tackle anxiety naturally. This includes meditation and yoga. Also consider that you are meeting the 4 pillars of wellbeing to allow you to manage the anxiety and depression. When at least one of these pillars aren’t being met sufficiently, it’s really hard for the rest of your body to function optimally.
The 4 Pillars of Wellbeing include
- a good sleep routine
- nutritious food choices
- movement of some kind
- social network
If you have been dealing with anxiety or depression alone without any support, it’s okay to ask for help and find someone who can help you through this. Talking through problems can really make a big difference. It’s cathartic and can help you get out of your head and hear it outside of yourself rather than the ongoing inner cycle that can happen.
I recommend Online-Therapy for US residents.
Or alternatively, you can consider doing a counselling program online that is the equivalent to 8 sessions of counselling in one program.
Another option is to do the work on your own with the Self-therapy Journey that I have written about on this post.
You’re not alone in your experience of anxiety and depression. Many people suffer these sometimes debilitating mental health issues. Know that there are ways to work through the challenges you are facing. There can be many options available for you. consider what your body is getting nutritionally as this can help your body produce the neurotransmitters required for improved mood.
To lower your anxiety and depression, work towards including the list of foods above. You may also need to engage in doing the strategies that help with managing these moods. No one can make it go away for you. It requires you to acknowledge the problem and work on shifting it so it has less of an impact on you.
Consider your food habits and lifestyle and choose sugar free, unprocessed, whole, real foods.
In particular consume the foods listed here to help your brain do its job with lowered inflammation. This in turn will help your brain produce the necessary neurotransmitters that increase serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin and GABA.
38 Replies to “Foods That Help With Anxiety and Depression”
Excellent article this is and I must say I found the piece very insightful to read on. I have been battling with anxiety for quite a long time and all I’ve been using to counter it majorly are supplements and cbd oil products. Unknowingly to me, I never would have thought that foods can help out with anxiety and depressions. I was simply wowed while reading through this post because of the foods I found on the list. However, this came as a golden write up to me and I really appreciate it. Thank you so much
Thanks for the feedback on this post. I hope it can be of valuable for you.
I have been experiencing high levels of anxiety and gloominess lately mostly due to my stressful job and a friend of mine suggested that it might have to do with not eating well, or sometimes at all at work.
Truth is that there’s no time to eat at my job so I’ll have to take your tips and start preparing some small snacks full of nutrients to stuff down my throat while at work.
I really don’t want to start taking supplements.
Thanks a lot for the help!
It takes courage to recognise something needs to change and then act on those changes Harry. If you can have some nuts or berries and a few veggie sticks perhaps these could certainly help at reducing the inflammation and feed your gut the beneficial nutrients it needs to help produce the neurochemicals that can alleviate how you have been feeling. Also be sure to cut out caffeine and sugar as these also contribute in increasing anxiety and depression. Give yourself a few minutes to fuel your body. All the best ~kat
Anxiety and depression is an increasing problem in the world today with more people seeking support. It might be that we are becoming more open in how we feel but it could also be reflective on our diets too. Whilst as you state you can’t rely on foods to help your anxiety or depression but they certain can have an effect on wellbeing. Having a balance in your diet with nutrients and minerals is very important, and you point that out clearly. A very interesting article and one that will give those with anxiety and depression hope that they will feel better, by taking control of their nutrition and managing their triggers better to start feeling happier.
It is definitely something that needs to be considered when the experience of anxiety and depression are occurring for individuals and not to be ignored. We are holistic beings that require all parts to be integrated. I too hope those experiencing anxiety and depression can modify their diets to allow for the brain supporting nutrients to help alleviate these moods. It’s hard living with anxiety and depression and it takes time but it is possible for the body to recover and be calm.
That’s an amazing article. We daily meet anxious and depressed people. Despite the economic problems, the interpersonal relationships and other personal issues, there are the nutritional habits that affect the gut and by extension the brain, because they create an irritable gut. There are so many foods that help it.
All these foods you mentioned, such as the water, help the gut with the vegetable fibers they contain to work normally and they increase serotonin. Thank you for this really helpful list and for your very informative and useful.
Thanks, individuals need to be aware of what they’re feeding their body to recognise what needs to change if they are experiencing anxiety and depression. It can also help to apply various strategies too, but if the body isn’t nourished it could make these strategies less effective. Thanks for sharing your feedback ~kat
Hi Kat, this article is spot on. I suffered for years with anxiety and depression and the funny thing was, I couldn’t understand why I was so low, so I tried literally every method I heard about. Those years have gone and ,as you said, healing is brought about by a combination of actions. In terms of nutrition, I changed to including most of your items in my diet. The greatest change came about for me with magnesium in various forms. The right foods really help the process along, and I am a testimony to that. Thank you for a great article.
Well done for working through those challenging years of anxiety and depression. I too consciously increase my magnesium with the foods I consume as a way to help manage the emotions as magnesium really makes a big difference. It’s very common to not have enough magnesium in our body so even more important to eat foods that contain this valuable nutrient. Thanks for sharing how valuable changing your diet was for you and overcoming anxiety and depression. ~kat
I recently realized that anxiety can be caused by a lot of issues. I initially thought that it was a mental disorder but I realized that even physical sickness can lead to anxiety.
I have experienced this with a relative and I am relieved that anxiety can be treated by food. I am also learning a lot about the gut, most of which I had no idea. The impact of inflammation on our bodies is such an eye opener.
Thank you for explaining this so well. Informative article!
Well done for being able to recognise the link for you between anxiety and your physical health. The gut is so important in how it helps our body and brain produce the necessary hormones for our mental wellbeing. Thanks for sharing.
I enjoyed reading your article on the link between foods and anxiety.
A few years ago I suffered a bout of anxiety which I found to be quite frightening as I usually feel quite confident and able to cope. My doctor recommended some medication to help alleviate the symptoms but also suggested I cut out certain foods from my diets such as caffeine, alcohol and white carbs. I found the best remedy for me was a nice cup of chamomile tea.
Hi Debbie, anxiety can be a big shock if you don’t usually experience it, and it sounds like diet may have played a part in your experience. Well done for doing something about it.
Thank you for the wealth of information you have provided. There is a much larger connection between what we put into our bodies and various mental states such anxiety and depression than people realize.
Being a Herbalist, I am not an advocate of most pharmaceutical medications. I prefer instead to offer my clients a wholesome natural solution. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself, including mentally, if given the proper nutritional tools.
When dealing with conditions such as depression, the amino acid Tryptophan has been proven to help those who do not produce enough serotonin. The body however, cannot make Tryptophan on its own so foods such as nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, oats and eggs can be an excellent choice for those who suffer with this condition.
As you noted, there are also various herbs that can be added to the diet to aide with both anxiety and depression. St. John’s Wart, valerian root, black/blue cohosh, marshmallow and astragalus are some others, to name a few. Thanks again for the abundance of information!
Hi Shannon thanks for sharing your experience with nutrition, I love it! I was a bit lax on the herbs, as I was conscious of the volume to include. I might edit and add some of what you shared, as I’m not a herbalist, and this is very accurate. I had forgotten about St John’s wort, so thanks for sharing.
I think your article is very insightful and helpful for those suffering from anxiety or other associated issues.
Whilst I agree completely in relation to steering clear of foods which can have a negative impact on our health and wellbeing, as a therapist myself and through my extensive experience of my own practice and my work for Anxiety UK I now teach my clients to embrace their anxious thoughts and not fight them because this way you can eliminate them forever.
I agree, there is certainly benefits to sitting with the anxiety and explore it and reflect with the support of an experienced therapist. There is also a lot of poor food choices which impact moods too so hence needing to raise awareness around the possible changes that can be made should the anxiety or depression be due to low nutritional value or vitamins in the diet. Thanks for stopping by.
Maybe this is a bit weird, but I never thought about how foods can change our mood! This is definitely a great motivator to pay better attention to what I eat, and my overall health in general. It’s good to see that some of the foods I already love are on the list, so perhaps it won’t be too difficult to make changes 🙂
It’s not weird that you didn’t realise this Christen. It’s only through personal experience that I realised how much our diet impacted my anxiety. So I did research on it, while also checking what affects my own anxiety and know how poor my diet used to be and making changes has helped relieve my moods and reduce the anxiety. In particular eating probiotic options, going sugar free and increasing magnesium rich foods. ~ kat
I loved your post.
I too firmly believe that our diet and the food we use can influence our moods + our behaviour. Junk food tends to have low value ingridients that tend to leave low value chemical reactions in our body system and hormonones. This of course leads to anxiety and depression, amongst other factors.
I use a diet with a lot of olive oil and Vitamin E and D. I noticed that Magnesium is very needed when it comes to your mood and hormones.
I love your website by the way. I will bookmark it for future posts.
I thought food had an effect on me. I was not sure until your post on how food changes my moods. I could overdose on dark chocolate thou.
I will bookmark your site. I love the font size and the content is even better. The level of detail is incredible. Thank you…
This is awesome. I have 100% always believed that our mental & physical health are linked. The foods we put into our body are so important. Im a vegetarian, so it’s nice to see the list of fruits,vegetables,nuts & seeds you listed to help combat anxiety and depression. I do take a B12 vitamin which I believe is so important as so many people, meat eaters and vegetarians alike can easily be deficient in. Vitamin D is so important for our mood too, I try to go outside in the sunshine for a few minutes a day 🙂
Well l never thought food had an effect on our mental balance.
This was an interesting read. Thanks for sharing, the site looks great
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This is such an important topic. People really aren’t aware of how closely mood/anxiety/depression etc are linked to the gut and to the foods that we consume. Thanks so much for pointing this out and for sharing all this information. I’m sure that it will be of help to a lot of people!
Your post is very informative ! Now I realised that food can help with anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are common problems in today’s society. Busy people may often have an unhealthy diet which contains a lot of trans fat and sugar. This may also affect their mood and hormones. So we should be aware of what we eat every day as well.
Hi, thanks for stopping by. it’s amazing when you think of how the link between anxiety and depression is closely connected with our diet. It makes sense when you think about it. ~kat
Great article Kat, you got it covered. I personally don’t have any issue with anxiety or depression, but I have a friend who’s going through some bad days. That’s why I will recommend it and I hope it will be as useful as it appears to be.
Thanks for sharing, amazing!
Hi Marian, thanks for sharing and thanks for thinking of your friend who experiences not so good days. It takes a number of strategies for managing anxiety and depression. Be sure to show her some of the other relevant posts on the site to your friend for them to work through their struggles with these conditions too. ~kat
Thank you for this great article, so many people don’t know that anxiety and depression can eat our souls and cause huge problems. People need to understand that those 2 are the worst out there and anyone that already has them knows that. I am a doctor and I always meet such cases, I love your article because you provided natural ways to get rid of at least make it better for those people. They deserve to have a better life. I want to add that any food, even junk food, that make you happy in another word food you love, get it and eat it but not too much! The idea simply when we eat something we love like ice cream or chocolate, happy hormones increase in our body and that will help to get rid of anxiety.
Great article. Thank you
Hi Mohammad, thanks for stopping by. I’m not a fan of junk food, and don’t encourage it as it can also become an addiction or lead to emotional eating which has follow on effects on mental health and self esteem, but I can see where you’re coming from for releasing happy hormones. This would be more like a short term fix. Thanks for contributing to the discussion ~kat
Hi there, this was a really well-written and informative post. Thank you for this list of foods that help with anxiety and depression, This is a great resource. I particularly liked what you mentioned about the 4 Pillars of Wellbeing to ensure that we are balanced in all areas. It’s a great checkpoint if we notice health issues popping up to take a step back and reassess using this. There were a lot of takeaways in this post for me so thanks again.
Hi Tamika, thanks for sharing your thoughts and feedback on foods that help with anxiety and depression. The pillars of wellbeing are ceratainly tied in with our health and mental health too. ~kat
Very interesting! extremely well-written article. I never knew foods could create such an impact on anxiety and depression. I really believe you are making a difference with a post like this. Keep up the good work and thank you for sharing these thoughts with us!
Hi Tyler and welcome. Thanks for the lovely feedback. I do hope it can help others manage their anxiety and depression with changes to their diets in conjunction with other strategies. ~kat
I found your article very informative and a great read. I’ve recently started to become more conscious about what I’m putting into my body by cutting back on processed foods,I’ve even cut back on the meats. I truly believe that what we put in our bodies has an impact on anxiety and our moods. Thanks for the great information.
Great information! I know so many people on prescription drugs for anxiety and depression. It would be nice if they can someday be able to lower their dose over time or even completely get off of it. What’s even nicer is to never have to get on those drugs in the first place with all the crazy side effect that can come with it.
Hi John, yes, those side effects of the prescribed medications are not ideal, so finding a natural way to combat anxiety and depression using food from nature makes sense. By using a variety of approaches, this can help support managing these conditions in a positive and effective way.