If you’re anything like me, when you feel overcome with anxiety, you reach for ice cream. Our brain sends signals to our bodies in high stress situations that can make us immediately gravitate toward sugary, salty, fatty, or other high-calorie food. And don’t get me wrong: A bowl of mint chip definitely has its place. But, there are a whole slew of wholesome foods that actually help relieve anxiety.
Even better? The foods that contain these good-for-you nutrients are ones that many of us reach for on the regular. So next time you’re feeling a blanket of stress and worry, try one of these healthy foods.
1. Fatty Fish
Fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies contain a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help anxiety levels. Specifically, they help regulate the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Bonus point for salmon and sardines, which are contain mood-boosting vitamin D.
Early research shows that some live active cultures found in yogurt may have a positive effect on your mental health. More studies need to be done, but, since probiotics support your gut health, and your gut health can affect your mood, it’s a healthy choice regardless.
P.S. Other fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and miso may have similar benefits.
3. 70% Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is definitely something I crave when I am feeling anxious — which is great because studies show it can reduce stress and improve your mood. It’s important to note that when we say chocolate, however, we don’t mean candy bars or chocolate cake; we mean dark chocolate. That’s because it’s the cacao that’s the mood-booster, so reach for a bar that’s at least 70% cacao.
Whenever I was feeling completely stressed and overwhelmed in high school, my dad would scramble up a couple eggs or slip me half an egg salad sandwich. It was a comforting ritual between us, and now I know eggs may have anti-anxiety properties. Not only are egg yolks a good source of vitamin D, but whole eggs are rich in certain essential amino acids that produce dopamine and serotonin.
5. Chamomile Tea
Just about any tea has a way of relaxing and calming you but chamomile has extra-special properties. It’s full of antioxidants that are great for overall health but several studies have specifically shown the effect of chamomile on anxiety relief. Luckily, chamomile tea is easy to keep on hand and quick to brew when you’re not feeling yourself.