Anxious? Include these Foods for a Calm Mood

There is plenty of advice out there (including on this blog) about which foods to limit when addressing the causes of anxiety. Managing your intake of coffee, refined foods and sweet treats is a helpful start to the dietary treatment, but what should you be eating instead? As a Naturopath I have found that simply asking a client to eliminate a problematic food or drink isn’t always successful. The change is much easier when I can provide an alternative or substitute that the client can reach for!

So, which foods are given the green light for those who regularly experience anxiety? Let me take a moment here to reiterate that we are all different right down to the cellular level. The response to a food will of course vary from person to person. However, from a nutritional standpoint, there are certain foods which can promote a calm mood simply due to their macro (carbs, proteins, fats) and micro-nutrient (vitamin and mineral) profile.

If we look at the ingredients that the body needs in order to make neurotransmitters, we can identify the foods that contain those ingredients. It’s important that we provide the body with the resources it needs to manufacture these neurotransmitters – kind of like having a go at cooking before relying on Uber Eats for the rest of your life (Uber Eats being the metaphor for supplements or medications that alter neurotransmitter levels). Neurotransmitters are chemicals made by the body that affect mood, energy, sleep, motivation, pleasure and pain levels. The foods I am about to list are focused on improving the production of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin.

GABA is the main inhibitory (calming) neurotransmitter and is important for winding down at night. GABA requires the amino acid Glutamine, vitamin B6 and Magnesium. Serotonin is often called the ‘feel-good’ hormone, but it has other functions as well. It is manufactured from tryptophan with a little help from magnesium, B6, zinc and other vitamins and minerals.

Foods that contain these nutrients include:

·         Almonds

·         Chicken

·         Turkey

·         Eggs

·         Pork

·         Beef

·         Pepita Seeds

·         Avocado

·         Spinach

·         Sweet Potato

·         Bananas

·         Dairy

·         Oily fish like tuna, salmon and sardines


Yes, there are a lot of animal foods here! If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and experience chronic anxiety its important to address potential nutrient deficiencies. Whilst it’s certainly possible to thrive on a plant-based diet, it is so important to ensure you have your bases covered in terms of amino acids, vitamins and minerals for mood balance.

Another important point to consider when optimising the diet to treat anxiety is that often the recommended daily intake is not high enough to exert a therapeutic effect. Throw in the fact that Australian soil quality means that the domestic food supply is somewhat lacking in nutritional density, we need to consider whether we actually are getting all that we need through diet.

If you’re after some tailored advice on how to manage anxiety through diet or need some help ticking the boxes with a plant-based diet, I recommend that you make an appointment through the bookings page! This way we can individualise treatment to suit you. It takes the guesswork and you’ll know exactly how many almonds to eat 😉

As usual, this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition and it is always recommended that you seek the advice of a qualified health professional if you have any concerns about your health or well-being.

Alexandra McPhee