Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on June 29, 2021

Say No to Ice Cream, Say Yes to Berries

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As much as you may want to, you can’t make yourself feel better with a bowl of your favorite ice cream. It won’t help -- the problem is all that sugar. Spikes in your blood sugar can bring on changes in your hormone levels. They can start with “jitteriness” and eventually lead to crashes. But other foods may help boost your mood.

Berries

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These have lots of antioxidants, which help protect your cells from stress and may help ease feelings of depression. You can get them from nuts, beans, walnuts, or green vegetables, too.

Spinach

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If this one leaves a bad taste in your mouth, almost any leafy green will do -- kale, collard greens, or Swiss chard. The key is the magnesium, which may help you feel calmer. Make sure you get enough of that mineral to help keep things in check.  

Oatmeal

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This is a complex carb -- it gets into your system slowly and gives you a steady flow of energy that can help keep you on an even keel. It also can give you a boost of a brain chemical called serotonin that can lift your mood.  

Dark Chocolate

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The flavonoids in the cocoa help protect your cells. They’re a type of antioxidant that may also help lower your blood pressure, boost the blood flow to your brain and heart, and make you less anxious. The dark stuff -- at least 70% cocoa -- is best, but don’t overdo it. The caffeine in chocolate can make anxiety worse if you have too much, and no one needs a lot of extra fat and calories.

Oysters

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Zinc is a mineral that helps our bodies deal with stress. Some diets may not include enough of this mineral. Zinc can be found in oysters, a salt water mollusk. If oysters aren’t your thing, you can get it from cashews, liver, beef, poultry, or eggs, too.

Oranges

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You may think of vitamin C when you think of these citrus fruits, and that’s a big reason it might help your anxiety. Some studies have shown that a diet rich in it may help calm you and put you in a better frame of mind.

Sardines

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These little fish aren’t for everyone, but they have lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help with depression and anxiety. The reason for that may be related to the way they can ease inflammation. If sardines are too fishy for you, try salmon or albacore tuna, which are lighter but also have plenty of omega-3s. 

Coffee

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This one can be a blessing or a curse -- the issue is the caffeine. A couple of cups of black coffee a day may boost your mood and energy, and up to four cups seems to be OK for most people. But more than that can make you jittery and anxious, and some people are more sensitive to it.

Tea

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For some, the ritual of a cup of tea has a calming effect. Certain herbs -- lavender and chamomile, for example -- may help, too, along with the antioxidants in the tea leaves themselves. Just make sure you don’t get too much caffeine. Many teas have that, too.

Sauerkraut

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Cabbage has folic acid, vitamin C, and some B vitamins that may help ease anxiety. If it’s left to ferment -- stew in its own juices -- bacteria break down sugar and other things and make it taste sour. These “good” bacteria help keep your gut healthy. They also play a part in making serotonin, a calming brain chemical.

Liver

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Calf is best, but chicken liver works, too. Both are loaded with B vitamins and folic acid that help make brain chemicals that affect the way you feel. You can get B vitamins from avocados and almonds, but they don’t have B12, which affects your mood and energy level. If you’d rather pass on the liver, you can get B12 in eggs, fish, or chicken.

Say Maybe to Alcohol

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This can be good or bad, depending on how much you have. A drink or two can relax some people, but too much can rewire your brain and make you more anxious. And heavy drinking can cause problems at work, home, and with your health that lead to more anxiety. No more than one drink a day for women, two for men, is a healthy rule of thumb.

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