Food That Reduces Anxiety

By Maisha Ahmed

NY Project Hope is a crisis counseling program that provides support and resources to help people cope with the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic

A little over a year ago, the world was dramatically impacted and changed with the appearance of Covid-19. This pandemic disrupted the flow of our daily routines and introduced a set of new routines that most of us weren’t prepared for, including the daily usage of masks and social distancing. In addition, during these troubling times, we also face many stress factors such as a high unemployment, transitioning from in-person learning to online learning for students, and dealing with the effects of social isolation. It is no wonder that there has been an increased spike in stress, depression, and anxiety within society.

What exactly is anxiety and how can we cope with it? Everyone might define anxiety a bit differently but generally anxiety is a persistent feeling of fear, uneasiness, or worry about a situation. There are several ways of coping with anxiety including talking it out, journaling, or exercising but did you know that there are certain food that play a big role in reducing anxiety and stress?  Here they are…

List of Six Food That Reduces Anxiety and Stress

 1. Salmon

Salmon has three important ingredients that are crucial when it comes to combating anxiety. First, it is rich in omega 3 fatty acids which not only decreases inflammation and makes our brain healthier but regulates cortisol, our body’s main stress hormone, and adrenaline leading to a reduction in anxiety. Salmon also has high amounts of vitamin-D and vitamin B-12 in which both plays a crucial role in improving mood and energy.

Want to make salmon a bit tastier? Here is a recipe on how to make garlic and herb baked salmon:


salmon4 thick firm boneless salmon fillets (about 4 ounces each)

Parchment paper or aluminum foil for baking

4 thick slices of lemon

4 teaspoons olive oil

2 large cloves garlic peeled and halved

8 small sprigs of fresh thyme

8 sprigs fresh dill

4 small sprigs fresh rosemary


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut four pieces of aluminum foil or parchment paper that are about twice the size of each salmon fillet.

Sprinkle the salmon with a little bit of salt and pepper, and then place each fillet on the center of a parchment square.

Place a slice of lemon on top of each piece of fish; drizzle with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil; put half of a garlic clove, 2 thyme sprigs, 2 dill sprigs, and 1 rosemary sprig on top.

Fold the parchment paper to seal each parcel tightly shut.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.

2. Dark Chocolate

It is a known fact that low serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences the mood, is a factor that influences the onset of anxiety and depression. What makes dark chocolate a great choice in terms of reducing anxiety is that it contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid that improves the serotonin level. Some other helpful ingredients that dark chocolate contains are theobromine, which makes our mood more positive and magnesium. Not only is dark chocolate considered the healthiest type of chocolate but it taste delicious too!

Here is a recipe for home-made dark chocolate bars:


Cacao Butter

Cacao Powder

Some other tools needed: double boiler, chocolate molds, whisks, food scale


Prepare the double boiler by adding water to a medium saucepan, and topping with a heat-proof bowl that is slightly larger than the circumference of the pan. Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium-low heat.

Place the cacao butter in the bowl and allow to melt, whisking occasionally to prevent scorching.

Once the cacao butter is fully melted, whisk in the cacao powder in small increments.

Continue until you have a mixture that resembles melted chocolate(because that’s what it is!)*

Remove the pan from heat and pour melted chocolate into your chocolate molds.

Set the chocolate in the fridge for at least 1 hour to set

3. Blueberries

blueberriesBlueberries might be tiny in size but there is no doubt that they are a powerful army when it comes to fighting off anxiety. The two pillars of their strengths include their ample amount of vitamin-C as well as antioxidants, both known to control and even prevent spikes in cortisol by repairing and protecting damaged cells. Blueberries are good enough to eat alone but it’s also a very healthy and tasty addition to other food such as oatmeal and yogurt.

4. Spinach

Spinach has magnesium, which not only regulates the emotional aspect of stress and anxiety, but also helps with the physical symptoms such as relaxing muscle tensions, headaches, as well as fatigue. To make spinach a better ally in fighting off stress and anxiety, it’s always a good idea to mix it up in salads and other leafy green vegetables.

Here is a wonderful recipe for a spinach salad that contains other ingredients that are good for destressing:

mushroom saladIngredients:

2 cups slices shitake mushrooms

¼ cup low fat feta cheese

1 cup cooked quinoa (use directions on package

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

Sea Salt to taste

1 bunch of raw spinach

Grape tomatoes


Marinade mushrooms in vinegar and olive oil for a minimum of one hour.

Prepare quinoa as directed on the package.

Add all ingredients together.

Pour any remaining vinegar/oil mixture over salad.

Season with Sea Salt and pepper.

 5. Avocado

sliced avocadosAvocado is known to have a high content of vitamin-B6 which actually helps produce serotonin and, as a bonus, also makes the heart healthier. In addition to B6, avocados also have vitamin-E which not only leaves you feeling good, but looking good.  It is also known to improve vision, reproduction system, as well as leading to healthier skin.

6. Anti-Stress Chocolate Chip Cookie

I’d like to end the list with a rather mouth-watering choice that I’m sure most people would enjoy. But aren’t chocolate chips unhealthy? How can they reduce stress? Well, these specific chocolate chip cookies are made from several ingredients that plays an active role in calming down stress and anxiety. Some of these ingredients includes oats, which produces serotonin, dark chocolate, walnuts which are known to lower blood pressure, and cranberries that lowers both blood sugar and blood pressure.

More Ingredients:

2 Tbs ground flax seed

6 Tbs water

healthy cookies1/4 c softened coconut oil

1/2 c unsweetened applesauce

1/2 c coconut palm sugar

2 Tbs maple syrup

2 tsp vanilla

2 1/4 c quick or old-fashioned oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking powder

another 1/4 c quick or old-fashioned oats

1 c dried cranberries

1 c walnut pieces

1 1/4 c dairy-free dark chocolate chips


Heat oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with baking mats or parchment paper.

Combine the flax seed and water in a cup and set aside.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the coconut oil, applesauce, coconut palm sugar and maple syrup together.

Beat in the vanilla and gelled flax seed.

Grind 2 1/2 c oats into a fine flour in a food processor, about 2 minutes.

Transfer the oat flour to a bowl and stir in the cinnamon, soda, salt and baking powder.

Gradually add the dry ingredients into the wet and beat until well combined, about 1 minute.

Stir in 1/4 c oats and the cranberries, walnuts and chocolate chips.

Use a 2 Tbs cookie scoop or roll the batter into 2 Tbs balls and place 12 cookies on one sheet. They spread very little as they bake, so flatten them slightly. Press a few extra cranberries, chips or walnuts on top if you like.

Bake 10 minutes. Prepare the other sheet with cookies while these bake.

Let them stand for a few minutes on the sheet before moving to a cooling rack.

Makes 34 cookies.

Remember, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or if you need help coping with your stress, the Crisis Counselors for NY Project Hope at Independent Living, Inc. are always available to help. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone you don’t know! Want to know more about how we can help? Give us a call at 845-762-2275. Talking to us is always free, anonymous, and confidential.

Maisha Ahmed is a crisis counselor from Independent Living, Inc. working with the NY Project Hope program.

References and Further Reading: