The Anti-Stress Diet: Foods that Reduce Stress and Anxiety

anti stress food diet

Nutritional strategies and foods that reduce stress you can rely on

Anxiety disorders affect approximately 40 million adults and are the most common mental illness in the U.S. Although in many cases taking some natural steps to combat stress and anxiety can help tremendously, only about one-third of those who suffer receive treatment of any kind. If you are struggling, research shows that by simply incorporating foods that reduce stress and anxiety into your diet, you can address nutritional imbalances that may be worsening your anxiety symptoms.

Facts about anxiety

Did you know that:

  • Women are twice as likely to struggle with anxiety as men are.
  • Anxiety and depression often come hand in hand. Nearly one-half of people who suffer from depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives.
  • Social anxiety disorder usually begins around age 13. Thirty-six percent of people with social anxiety disorder report experiencing symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.

What is nutritional therapy?

Nutritional therapy maximizes our health potential by making nutritional and lifestyle changes based upon our individual needs. A scientifically-backed approach to adjusting our nutrition intake based upon our unique strengths and challenges, nutritional therapy is just one term nutritionists and dietitians use to describe a powerful, classic concept: how to let food be our medicine. For people who struggle with anxiety, incorporating foods that reduce stress can go a long way.

Foods that reduce stress: The food/mood connection

bottles of food on a shelf

Let food be thy medicine.

Our brains require a constant supply of fuel. The foods we eat directly influence the structure and function of our brain, as well as our mood. When we eat high-quality, nourishing foods that contain lots of vitamins and minerals, our brains function best. Alternatively, when we eat processed and refined foods, they promote inflammation, oxidative stress and mood disorders, such as anxiety.

Since our bodies produce about 95 percent of our serotonin in our gastrointestinal tract, the good bacteria in our gut highly influences our ability to produce it. Research shows that people who have higher levels of good bacteria in their guts experience lower anxiety and stress and have improved mental outlooks. By using food as our medicine, we can incorporate foods that reduce stress into our diet and get a handle on our stress and anxiety once and for all.

Quick tip: Learn about the beneficial role of hydration in anxiety and stress reduction in our free guide.

Get the guide: How to Rehydrate

10 foods that reduce stress and anxiety


A growing body of research shows that curcumin, an element found in turmeric, may be as effective as Prozac in treating depression and anxiety. How? Properties in turmeric seem to enhance neuron health, reduce inflammation and regenerate brain cells. Try this golden milk recipe to give your brain a boost of turmeric.


Ever have a gut feeling? It turns out that there is in fact a very clear and powerful connection between our gut bacteria and our mental health. Kefir, a yogurt-like drink made with fermented cow’s milk, contains probiotics that support good gut bacteria and, in turn, serotonin production.


Avocados all in a pile

Monounsaturated fats support neurotransmitters and overall brain health.

Magnesium-rich foods such as avocados, bananas, black beans and high-quality dark chocolate can help calm nerves. By nourishing our nervous system, regulating our blood pressure and helping to balance our blood sugar, foods that are rich in magnesium can help ease our minds during stressful times.


Studies show that a lack of folate and B-vitamins can increase your risk of depression and anxiety. Just one cup of asparagus contains two-thirds of the daily folic acid intake doctors recommend.

Leafy greens

Milk gets all of the credit, but did you know that many dark, leafy greens contain the same amount of calcium as milk, if not more? Calcium is an essential mineral that, in addition to supporting bone health, lowers our risk of high blood pressure. It also helps us absorb Vitamin D, which promotes happiness.


The next time you’re tempted to reach for a sugary snack after a stressful meeting, grab some citrus instead. The aroma, vitamins and antioxidants in oranges and other citrus fruits all reduce stress levels and boost our immunity.


You know how people say that turkey can make you sleepy? Turkey contains tryptophan, a powerful stress-buster that also promotes mental health and well-being. A recent study found that tryptophan can help ease postpartum depression in new moms.


Studies show that a diet rich in whole grains can lower your risk of depression and anxiety. By replacing processed carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates, you can better balance your blood sugar, stay fuller, longer, and flood your body with B vitamins, folate and magnesium.

Grass-fed beef

beef dish on a white plate

Grass-fed beef is lower in overall fat and contains two to four times higher the amount of Omega 3s than beef that is not grass-fed. Not a meat eater? Try some seaweed.

If you’re a meat eater, here is some good news: certain meats are among the foods that experts say can reduce stress and anxiety. Grass-fed beef does not contain any hormones and is much lower in overall fat than beef that is not grass fed. Additionally, it contains two to four times higher the amount of Omega 3s, which support neuronal function.


Another great source of Omega-3s, salmon – especially wild caught salmon – is a naturally fatty fish full of Omega-3s. which can aid in fighting heart disease, depression and anxiety.

Additional Tips

Ready to take charge of your health by eating foods that reduce stress and anxiety? Start by incorporating the foods above into your diet. To maximize their impact:

  • Eat breakfast. Eating a healthy breakfast will stabilize your blood sugar and, in turn, your mood.
  • Because complex carbohydrates make it easier for your body to absorb tryptophan and produce serotonin, don’t give up carbs. But be sure to eat plenty of whole grains, like farro and brown rice, as opposed to refined carbs such as bagels and pasta.
  • Lower your intake of caffeine, sugar and alcohol, and replace it with plenty of herbal tea, such as green and chamomile tea.


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