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Future Fit Traning

Which Foods Can Help Beat Anxiety

Anxiety is characterised by feelings of constant worry and nervousness; it may be related to poor brain health and sometimes requires medication for treatment. Other than medication, a few useful strategies can help reduce anxiety symptoms, including deep breathing, exercising, and eating certain foods. Check out this list below of foods that can help beat anxiety:

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Salmon contains nutrients which promote brain health, such as vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (1, 2, 3, 4). These omega-3 fatty acids aid in regulating the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which both provide calming and relaxing properties. Additionally, studies show fatty acids can reduce signs of inflammation and prevent dysfunction of brain cells which can play a role in the development of mental disorders such as anxiety. By consuming adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, you can promote your brain’s ability to adapt to change, which in turn allows you to better handle stressors which trigger symptoms of anxiety (5). Studies also show that vitamin D can positively improve levels of neurotransmitters which have calming effects (6, 7). So, consuming a few servings of salmon a week could potentially promote some anxiety relief.


A bowl of green leafy salad with a grilled salmon on it



Chamomile is a herb which research shows can help to reduce anxiety; it contains large amounts of antioxidants which have been shown to reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of anxiety (8, 9, 10). Studies examining the association between chamomile and anxiety relief have found that those diagnosed with a generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) experienced a greater reduction in their symptoms once they had consumed a chamomile extract in comparison to those who had not (11, 12). These findings were backed by another study in which participants consumed chamomile extract for eight weeks and saw a reduction in their symptoms of depression and anxiety (13).


Although these results all appear promising, more in-depth research is required to further understand and evaluate the anti-anxiety effects of chamomile tea.




Turmeric is a spice which contains the compound curcumin; this compound has been studied for both its role in promoting brain health and in preventing anxiety disorders (14, 15). Studies in both animals and in-vitro have suggested that curcumin can boost the omega-3 fatty acid DHA within the brain by assisting your body in synthesising it more efficiently (14). A study involving mice found that administering twenty milligrams per kilogram of curcumin produced significant anti-anxiety effects in stressed mice compared to those who were administered a lower dosage (16).


Countless studies have found that curcumin has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can prevent brain cell damage (8, 18, 19).


These effects are partly down to curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammatory markers, which are often linked with the development of anxiety (20, 8). More human studies are required to confirm all of these effects, although it is harmless and advisable to consider incorporating turmeric into your diet.


A bowl of turmeric powder, a wooden spoon with turmeric powder in and a bottle of turmeric oil



The probiotics (healthy bacteria) found in some yoghurts have improved several aspects of your overall well-being, including your mental health (21, 22). Studies have shown that probiotic foods such as yoghurt can promote mental health and brain function by inhibiting free radicals and neurotoxins, damaging brain nerve tissues and contributing to anxiety development (23, 24). Remember, though, that not all kinds of yoghurt contain probiotics. To reap the benefits of probiotics, make sure you choose yoghurts with live active cultures listed as an ingredient on the packaging.


A bowl of yoghurt with red berries in it


For more information on foods which can help beat anxiety, see our Behaviour Change Coaching Course.


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  3. Dyall, S.C., 2015. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and the brain: a review of the independent and shared effects of EPA, DPA and DHA. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 7, p.52.
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  8. Salim, S., Chugh, G. and Asghar, M., 2012. Inflammation in anxiety. In Advances in protein chemistry and structural biology (Vol. 88, pp. 1-25). Academic Press.
  9. Srivastava, J.K., Shankar, E. and Gupta, S., 2010. Chamomile: a herbal medicine of the past with a bright future. Molecular medicine reports, 3(6), pp.895-901.
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  11. Mao, J.J., Xie, S.X., Keefe, J.R., Soeller, I., Li, Q.S. and Amsterdam, J.D., 2016. Long-term chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla L.) treatment for generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized clinical trial. Phytomedicine, 23(14), pp.1735-1742.
  12. Amsterdam, J.D., Li, Y., Soeller, I., Rockwell, K., Mao, J.J. and Shults, J., 2009. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of oral Matricaria recutita (chamomile) extract therapy of generalized anxiety disorder. Journal of clinical psychopharmacology, 29(4), p.378.
  13. Amsterdam, J.D., Shults, J., Soeller, I., Mao, J.J., Rockwell, K. and Newberg, A.B., 2012. Chamomile (matricaria recutita) may have antidepressant activity in anxious depressed humans-an exploratory study. Alternative therapies in health and medicine, 18(5), p.44.
  14. Wu, A., Noble, E.E., Tyagi, E., Ying, Z., Zhuang, Y. and Gomez-Pinilla, F., 2015. Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Molecular Basis of Disease, 1852(5), pp.951-961.
  15. Cole, G.M., Teter, B. and Frautschy, S.A., 2007. Neuroprotective effects of curcumin. In The molecular targets and therapeutic uses of curcumin in health and disease (pp. 197-212). Springer US.
  16. Wu, A., Noble, E.E., Tyagi, E., Ying, Z., Zhuang, Y. and Gomez-Pinilla, F., 2015. Curcumin boosts DHA in the brain: implications for the prevention of anxiety disorders. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta (BBA)-Molecular Basis of Disease, 1852(5), pp.951-961.
  17. Gilhotra, N. and Dhingra, D., 2010. GABAergic and nitrergic modulation by curcumin for its antianxiety-like activity in mice. Brain Research, 1352, pp.167-175.
  18. Ak, T. and Gülçin, İ., 2008. Antioxidant and radical scavenging properties of curcumin. Chemico-biological interactions, 174(1), pp.27-37.
  19. Gupta, S.C., Patchva, S. and Aggarwal, B.B., 2013. Therapeutic roles of curcumin: lessons learned from clinical trials. The AAPS journal, 15(1), pp.195-218.
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  21. Shi, L.H., Balakrishnan, K., Thiagarajah, K., Ismail, N.I.M. and Yin, O.S., 2016. Beneficial properties of probiotics. Tropical life sciences research, 27(2), p.73.
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  23. Kim, B., Hong, V.M., Yang, J., Hyun, H., Im, J.J., Hwang, J., Yoon, S. and Kim, J.E., 2016. A review of fermented foods with beneficial effects on brain and cognitive function. Preventive nutrition and food science, 21(4), p.297.
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