Tailor your Diet to Improve Anxiety

Don't Panic Note Means No Panicking Or Relaxing

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By Thiyagarajan Sivapriya, M.Sc, M. Phil

Drugs used to treat anxiety have many negative side effects including addiction, depression, suicide, seizures, sexual dysfunction, headaches and more. Anxiolytic medications do not restore normal levels of neurotransmitters but instead manipulate the brain chemistry. Often, the brain becomes accustomed to these medications and they often lose their effectiveness, requiring higher doses or different drugs. In contrast to anxiolytic drugs, nutrients which can stimulates neurotransmitter synthesis and more naturally effect and even adjust brain chemistry in the absence of many of the side effects experienced with drugs. [1]

Therefore this article explores several nutritional approaches to the treatment of anxiety.


Bananas can alleviate symptoms of depression. Some of its nutrients can help your body fight against anxiety. The amino acid tryptophan present in bananas helps your body make serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Feelings of clinical depression arises from low serotonin levels. Additionally, bananas provide vitamin B6, which your body also needs in order to manufacture serotonin from tryptophan.


It is hypothesized that a relationship exists between a poor n-3 PUFA status and an increased risk of depression. In a nine country study, a significant correlation was found between high annual fish consumption and a low prevalence of major depression. When a sample of 3204 Finnish adults were studied a significant correlation between low fish consumption and anxiety symptoms was interpreted. A survey of 4644 New Zealand adults found that fish consumption was significantly associated with higher self-reported mental health status.[2] Omega-3’s can be found in fish, flax seed, and winter squash


For optimal brain functioning, cerebral blood flow needs to be well maintained to support constant oxygen and glucose supply to neurons as well as waste excretion. Increase in cerebral blood flow represents a potential means to improve cerebral function. The principal polyphenols that enhance cerebral blood flow in humans come mainly from cocoa, wine, grape seeds, berries, tea, tomatoes and soya. In human studies, it was reported that the ingestion of a single dose or a 1 week treatment with cocoa rich in flavanol (900mg day−1) increases cerebral blood flow in grey matter and reverses endothelial dysfunction in a dose‐dependent manner which suggests its potential in the treatment of cerebrovascular problems [3]


Walnuts are the same shape as the human brain. Considered the ultimate superfood, walnuts are now being served up as brain medicine for many reasons, not the least of which is because they are replete with omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fatty acid to keep the brain functioning normally. Research says that low omega-3 intake can be linked to depression and cognitive degeneration. Eating a fistful of walnuts regularly then can keep the spirits up and prop up the grey cells for good measure. What is more, walnuts are known to raise melatonin levels by a whopping three times, promising relief from sleeplessness and insomnia. So if you’re tired of counting sheep at night and would appreciate a knock-out sleep instead, then consider ingesting a few walnuts as a pre-bedtime snack [4]


Led by Dr. Caroline Edmonds, researchers in the UK recently conducted a study showing that even mild dehydration has a negative effect on the brain’s performance. Drinking water, the researchers found, can improve the brain’s ability to complete tasks that require a rapid response. In particular, the improvements were greatest among those who felt thirsty. Subjects were tested with the CANTAB battery, a computer-based assessment that measures a variety of mental abilities, including verbal skills, visual acuity, and learning.

The researchers found that providing a glass of water immediately before the participants took the exam boosted mental reflexes, specifically reaction time, by 14 percent. Subjects marked down how thirsty they were feeling on a scale from one to 10. Reaction times ran 14 percent shorter after drinking water. People with the greater cravings experienced a bigger mental lift after being re-hydrated. [5]


Remember, healthy eating leads to healthy hormonal functioning, which leads to an improved sense of well-being. So the better you eat, the better your anxiety will be handled.  Eating healthy does have an effect on your ability to handle anxiety, so altering your diet to include better foods for anxiety is important.


  1. Alramadhan et al Dietary and botanical anxiolytics © Med Sci Monit, 2012; 18(4): RA40-48
  2. Ruxton et al., The health benefits of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids: a review of the evidence 2004 J Hum Nutr Dietet, 17, pp. 449–459
  3. Scholey AB Consumption of cocoa flavanols results in acute improvements in mood and cognitive performance during sustained mental effort. Journal of Psychopharmacology, vol. 24, no. 10, pp. 1505–1514, 2010.
  4. Natural News. Why walnuts are the ultimate brain food.
  5. Edmonds CJ, Crombie R, Gardner MR. Subjective thirst moderates changes in speed of responding associated with water consumptionFrontiers in Human Neuroscience. 2013
Sivapriya Thiyagarajan

Sivapriya Thiyagarajan

Sivapriya Thiyagarajan is post-graduate in Food Service Management & Dietetics. She currently pursues her Ph.D. in the branch of Neutraceuticals. She has several years of experience including teaching, research, diet counselling and consultancy works. She regularly writes on topics covering diet and health at her blog PriyasDietCorner.com

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About Me

I’m an Italian nutrition coach, speaker, entrepreneur and associate professor at the University of Gothenburg. I started MY career as a biologist and spent 15 years working both in Italy and then in Sweden.

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