Choosing the Right Foods to Calm Anxiety

Several small clinical trials suggest that some foods and herbs reduce symptoms of anxiety by calming the nerves or by providing the brain and nervous system with vital things it needs.

The link between food and herbs and anxiety reduction is neither a completely accepted nor rejected idea in mainstream medical science. The community agrees that more research is needed.

If you or a loved one is suffering from anxiety, below are several food and herbal options to consider as ways to help you get back to normal as quickly as you can:


egg frying in a panSeveral studies have observed that a low level of choline is predictive of anxiety. Some nutrition experts and researchers theorize that choline plays an important role in regulating levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Nature’s best source of choline? Eggs.


turkey sandwichTurkey is famous for its tryptophan content. Tryptophan is a precursor (building block) of serotonin, the neurotransmitter that keeps us calm and allows us to fall asleep. Good news for vegetarians, tryptophan is also found in soy, nuts, sesame seeds and cheese.


cup of herbal teaCalming chamomile tea, or if you talk to your doctor first, chamomile supplements might be a great idea. Chamomile flowers have compounds that bind with the same brain receptors as does Valium. A study at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center found that chamomile worked much better than a placebo at reducing anxiety in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Green Tea (L-theanine)

woman holding a cup of tea at her computerFor those with symptoms of anxiety, lowering coffee (caffeine) consumption is recommended. A great switch to consider is green tea. Green tea has L-theanine, an amino acid that lowers heart rate and reduces blood pressure, which is great for those feeling anxious.

Along with a host of other proven benefits like a great number of antioxidants, green tea has caffeine, but only an average of 25mg per cup. A cup of brewed coffee ranges from 100mg – 200mg of caffeine, depending on how strong it is. With green tea, you get the alertness you’re used to getting from coffee, while at the same time being able to remain relaxed.

More potent in L-theanine than green tea, L-theanine supplements (200mg capsules) might be more effective in the short term to treat anxiety.

Flaxseed Oil/Salmon/Nuts

bowl of nutsOmega-3 polyunsaturated fats help the brain’s neurotransmitters do their jobs. And they enhance our sense of well-being, making us smile inside. A serving of salmon will deliver you a powerful dose, as will flaxseed oil and most other seeds and nuts.

Other Options

There are natural sedative herbal options to also consider as well, though research confirming their efficacy and safety is generally limited. Those include hops, valerian, lemon balm and passionflower.

Important: Don’t take sedative herbs (including chamomile) if you are taking a prescription, tranquilizer or prescription sedative. Talk to your doctor before starting any herbal treatments.

The active ingredients in sedative herbs might cause harmful reactions with drugs you’re already taking or not be safe for other medical conditions you might have.

And don’t take more than one herbal supplement at a time. If you want to try another one, stop the supplement you’re taking before starting a new one.