Anxiety is a common problem for many people.
It’s a disorder characterized by constant worry and nervousness, and is sometimes related to poor brain health. Medication is often required as treatment.
Aside from medication, there are several strategies you can use to help reduce anxious symptoms, from exercising to deep breathing.
Additionally, there are some foods you can eat that may help lower the severity of your symptoms, mostly due to their brain-boosting properties.
Here are 6 science-backed foods and beverages that may provide anxiety relief.

1. Salmon

Salmon may be beneficial for reducing anxiety.
It contains nutrients that promote brain health, including vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) (1234).
EPA and DHA may help regulate the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which can have calming and relaxing properties.
Additionally, studies show these fatty acids can reduce inflammation and prevent brain cell damage that leads to the development of mental disorders like anxiety.
Consuming adequate amounts of EPA and DHA may also promote your brain’s ability to adapt to changes, allowing you to better handle stressors that trigger anxiety symptoms (5).
Vitamin D has also been studied for the positive effects it may have on improving levels of calming neurotransmitters (67).
Even a few servings of salmon a week may be enough to promote anxiety relief.
In one study, men who ate Atlantic salmon three times per week for five months reported less anxiety than those who ate chicken, pork or beef. Moreover, they had improved anxiety-related symptoms, such as heart rate and heart rate variability (8).
Summary: Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, which may assist in anxiety relief by promoting brain health.

2. Chamomile

Chamomile Flowers
Chamomile is an herb that may help reduce anxiety.
It contains high amounts of antioxidants proven to reduce inflammation, which may help prevent the brain cell damage that commonly leads to anxiety (91011).
Several studies have examined the association between chamomile and anxiety relief.
They’ve found that those diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experienced a significantly greater reduction in symptoms after consuming chamomile extract, compared to those who did not (1213).
Another study found similar results, as those who consumed chamomile extract for eight weeks saw reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety (14).
While these results are promising, most studies have been conducted on chamomile extract. More research is necessary to evaluate the anti-anxiety effects of chamomile tea, which is most commonly consumed.
Summary: Chamomile has been shown to help with anxiety reduction due to its antioxidant content and anti-inflammatory effects.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that contains curcumin, a compound studied for its role in promoting brain health and preventing anxiety disorders (1516).
Animal and test-tube studies suggest that curcumin may boost the omega-3 fatty acid DHA in the brain by helping your body synthesize it more efficiently (15).
In one study, 20 mg/kg of curcumin produced significant anti-anxiety effects in stressed mice compared to those given a lower dose (17).
Curcumin also has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have been shown to prevent damage to brain cells (9161819202122).
These effects are partly due to curcumin’s ability to reduce inflammatory markers, such as cytokines, which are often linked with anxiety development (91623).
Additionally, curcumin consumption has been shown to increase blood antioxidant levels, which tend to be low in individuals with anxiety (2224).
More human research is needed to confirm all of these effects, but if you suffer from anxiety, incorporating turmeric into your diet is certainly worth a try.
Summary: Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate anxiety symptoms.

4. Dark Chocolate

Four Pieces of Dark Chocolate
Incorporating some dark chocolate into your diet may also be helpful for easing anxiety.
Dark chocolate contains flavonols, which are antioxidants that may benefit brain function.
They do this by improving blood flow to the brain and promoting its ability to adapt to environmental changes (2526).
These effects may allow you to adjust better to stressful situations that can lead to anxiety and other mood disorders.
Some researchers also suggest that dark chocolate’s role in brain health may simply be due to its taste, which can be comforting for those with mood disorders (26).
In one study, individuals who consumed 74% dark chocolate twice daily for two weeks had improved levels of stress hormones commonly associated with anxiety, such as catecholamines and cortisol (27).
Eating dark chocolate has also been shown to increase levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which may help reduce the stress that leads to anxiety (25282930).
For example, in a study of highly stressed individuals, participants reported significantly lower levels of stress after consuming 40 grams of dark chocolate every day over a two-week period (28).
However, dark chocolate is best consumed in moderation, as it is high in calories and sugar and easy to overeat. 1–1.5 ounces is a reasonable serving size.
Summary: Dark chocolate may be helpful for improving anxiety due to its stress-reducing antioxidants and ability to increase serotonin levels.

5. Yogurt

Pot of Yogurt
If you suffer from anxiety, yogurt is a great food to include in your diet.
The probiotics, or healthy bacteria, found in some types of yogurt can improve several aspects of your well-being, including mental health (3132).
Studies have shown that probiotic foods like yogurt may promote mental health and brain function by inhibiting free radicals and neurotoxins, which can damage nerve tissue in the brain and lead to anxiety (3334).
In one study, anxious individuals who consumed probiotic yogurt daily were better able to cope with stress than those who consumed yogurt without probiotics (35).
Another study found that women who consumed 4.4 ounces (125 grams) of yogurt twice daily for four weeks had better functioning of the brain regions that control emotion and sensation, which may be associated with lower anxiety levels (36).
These findings are promising, but more human research is necessary to confirm the beneficial effects that yogurt may have on anxiety reduction.
It is also important to note that not all yogurt contains probiotics. For the benefits of probiotics, choose a yogurt that has live active cultures listed as an ingredient.
Summary: Yogurt contains probiotics, which may have a positive effect on brain health and anxiety levels.

6. Green Tea

Green Tea in a Glass Teacup
Green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has been studied for the positive effects it may have on brain health and anxiety reduction (373839).
In one small study, people who consumed L-theanine experienced a reduction in psychological stress responses that are commonly associated with anxiety, such as heart rate (40).
Another study found that those who drank a beverage that contained L-theanine had decreased levels of cortisol, a stress hormone linked with stress and anxiety (41).
These effects may be due to L-theanine’s potential to prevent nerves from becoming overexcited. Additionally, L-theanine may increase GABA, dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that have been shown to have anti-anxiety effects (3941).
Moreover, green tea contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), an antioxidant suggested to promote brain health. It may play a role in reducing certain symptoms by also increasing GABA in the brain (42).
One mouse study found that EGCG produced anti-anxiety effects similar to those of common anxiety medications (43).
The beneficial properties of L-theanine and EGCG may be a major reason why drinking several cups of green tea daily is associated with less psychological distress (44).
While all of these findings are promising, it is worth mentioning that most of the research on green tea and anxiety has been conducted in animals and test tubes. More human research is needed to confirm its anti-anxiety effects.
Summary: Green tea contains L-theanine and EGCG, which may promote brain health and anxiety reduction.

Other Foods That May Help With Anxiety

While the foods listed below have not been studied specifically for their anti-anxiety effects, they are rich in nutrients thought to improve related symptoms.
  • Avocados: Avocados contain a significant amount of magnesium, which may help keep anxiety under control (4546).
  • Turkey, bananas and oats: These are good sources of the amino acid tryptophan, which is converted to serotonin in the body and may promote relaxation and anxiety relief (474849).
  • Eggs, meat and dairy products: All provide high-quality protein including essential amino acids that produce the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which have the potential to improve mental health (11505152).
  • Chia seeds: Chia seeds are another good source of brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help with anxiety (115354).
  • Citrus fruits and bell peppers: These fruits are rich in vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties that may help to reduce inflammation and prevent damage to cells that often leads to anxiety (11215556).
  • Almonds: Almonds provide a significant amount of vitamin E, which has been studied for its role in anxiety prevention (1157).
  • Blueberries: Blueberries are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, such as flavonoids, that have been studied for their ability to improve brain health and thus help with anxiety relief (21585960).
Summary: Some foods contain specific nutrients that may promote brain health and help prevent anxiety or reduce the severity of your symptoms.

The Bottom Line

Overall, research is sparse on the topic of specific foods and anxiety prevention.
Most studies have been conducted on animals or in laboratories, and more high-quality human studies are needed.
However, there are several foods and beverages that may help you deal with your anxiety symptoms, as they may reduce inflammation and boost brain health.

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The popularity of meditation is increasing as more people discover its benefits.
Meditation is a habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts.
You can use it to increase awareness of yourself and your surroundings. Many people think of it as a way to reduce stress and develop concentration.
People also use the practice to develop other beneficial habits and feelings, such as a positive mood and outlook, self-discipline, healthy sleep patterns and even increased pain tolerance.
This article reviews 12 health benefits of meditation.

1. Reduces Stress

Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people try meditation.
One study including over 3,500 adults showed that it lives up to its reputation for stress reduction (1).
Normally, mental and physical stress cause increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This produces many of the harmful effects of stress, such as the release of inflammation-promoting chemicals called cytokines.
These effects can disrupt sleep, promote depression and anxiety, increase blood pressure and contribute to fatigue and cloudy thinking.
In an eight-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammation response caused by stress (2).
Another study in nearly 1,300 adults demonstrated that meditation may decrease stress. Notably, this effect was strongest in individuals with the highest levels of stress (3).
Research has shown that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and fibromyalgia (45678).
Summary: Many styles of meditation can help reduce stress. Meditation can also reduce symptoms in people with stress-triggered medical conditions.

2. Controls Anxiety

Less stress translates to less anxiety.
For example, an eight-week study of mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce their anxiety.
It also reduced symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviors and panic attacks (9).
Another study followed up with 18 volunteers three years after they had completed an eight-week meditation program. Most volunteers had continued practicing regular meditation and maintained lower anxiety levels over the long term (10).
A larger study in 2,466 participants also showed that a variety of different meditation strategies may reduce anxiety levels (11).
For example, yoga has been shown to help people reduce anxiety. This is likely due to benefits from both meditative practice and physical activity (12).
Meditation may also help control job-related anxiety in high-pressure work environments. One study found that a meditation program reduced anxiety in a group of nurses (13).
Summary: Habitual meditation helps reduce anxiety and anxiety-related mental health issues like social anxiety, phobias and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

3. Promotes Emotional Health

Happy Woman Meditating
Some forms of meditation can also lead to an improved self-image and more positive outlook on life.
Two studies of mindfulness meditation found decreased depression in over 4,600 adults (114).
One study followed 18 volunteers as they practiced meditation over three years. The study found that participants experienced long-term decreases in depression (10).
Inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, which are released in response to stress, can affect mood, leading to depression. A review of several studies suggests meditation may reduce depression by decreasing these inflammatory chemicals (15).
Another controlled study compared electrical activity between the brains of people who practiced mindfulness meditation and the brains of others who did not.
Those who meditated showed measurable changes in activity in areas related to positive thinking and optimism (16).
Summary: Some forms of meditation can improve depression and create a more positive outlook on life. Research shows that maintaining an ongoing habit of meditation may help you maintain these benefits long term.

4. Enhances Self-Awareness

Some forms of meditation may help you develop a stronger understanding of yourself, helping you grow into your best self.
For example, self-inquiry meditation explicitly aims to help you develop a greater understanding of yourself and how you relate to those around you.
Other forms teach you to recognize thoughts that may be harmful or self-defeating. The idea is that as you gain greater awareness of your thought habits, you can steer them toward more constructive patterns (171819).
A study of 21 women fighting breast cancer found that when they took part in a tai chi program, their self-esteem improved more than it did than in those who received social support sessions (20).
In another study, 40 senior men and women who took a mindfulness meditation program experienced reduced feelings of loneliness, compared to a control group that had been placed on a wait list for the program (21).
Also, experience in meditation may cultivate more creative problem solving (22).
Summary: Self-inquiry and related styles of meditation can help you “know yourself.” This can be a starting point for making other positive changes.

5. Lengthens Attention Span

Focused-attention meditation is like weight lifting for your attention span. It helps increase the strength and endurance of your attention.
For example, a study looked at the effects of an eight-week mindfulness meditation course and found it improved participants’ ability to reorient and maintain their attention (23).
A similar study showed that human resource workers who regularly practiced mindfulness meditation stayed focused on a task for longer.
These workers also remembered details of their tasks better than their peers who did not practice meditation (24).
Moreover, one review concluded that meditation may even reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to mind-wandering, worrying and poor attention (25).
Even meditating for a short period may benefit you. One study found that four days of practicing meditation may be enough to increase attention span (26).
Summary: Several types of meditation may build your ability to redirect and maintain attention. As little as four days of meditation may have an effect.

6. May Reduce Age-Related Memory Loss

Improvements in attention and clarity of thinking may help keep your mind young.
Kirtan Kriya is a method of meditation that combines a mantra or chant with repetitive motion of the fingers to focus thoughts. It improved participants’ ability to perform memory tasks in multiple studies of age-related memory loss (27).
Furthermore, a review of 12 studies found that multiple meditation styles increased attention, memory and mental quickness in older volunteers (28).
In addition to fighting normal age-related memory loss, meditation can at least partially improve memory in patients with dementia. It can also help control stress and improve coping in those caring for family members with dementia (2729).
Summary: The improved focus you can gain through regular meditation may increase memory and mental clarity. These benefits can help fight age-related memory loss and dementia.

7. Can Generate Kindness

Hands Touching Hands
Some types of meditation may particularly increase positive feelings and actions toward yourself and others.
Metta, a type of meditation also known as loving-kindness meditation, begins with developing kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself.
Through practice, people learn to extend this kindness and forgiveness externally, first to friends, then acquaintances and ultimately enemies.
Twenty-two studies of this form of meditation have demonstrated its ability to increase peoples’ compassion toward themselves and others (30).
One study of 100 adults randomly assigned to a program that included loving-kindness meditation found that these benefits were dose-dependent.
In other words, the more effort people put into Metta meditation, the more positive feelings they experienced (31).
Another group of studies showed the positive feelings people develop through Metta meditation can improve social anxiety, reduce marriage conflict and help anger management (32).
These benefits also appear to accumulate over time with the practice of loving-kindness meditation (33).
Summary: Metta, or loving-kindness meditation, is a practice of developing positive feelings, first toward yourself and then toward others. Metta increases positivity, empathy and compassionate behavior toward others.

8. May Help Fight Addictions

The mental discipline you can develop through meditation may help you break dependencies by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviors (34).
Research has shown that meditation may help people learn to redirect their attention, increase their willpower, control their emotions and impulses and increase their understanding of the causes behind their addictive behaviors (3536).
One study that taught 19 recovering alcoholics how to meditate found that participants who received the training got better at controlling their cravings and craving-related stress (37).
Meditation may also help you control food cravings. A review of 14 studies found mindfulness meditation helped participants reduce emotional and binge eating (38).
Summary: Meditation develops mental discipline and willpower and can help you avoid triggers for unwanted impulses. This can help you recover from addiction, lose weight and redirect other unwanted habits.

9. Improves Sleep

Nearly half the population will struggle with insomnia at some point.
One study compared two mindfulness-based meditation programs by randomly assigning participants to one of two groups. One group practiced meditation, while the other didn’t.
Participants who meditated fell asleep sooner and stayed asleep longer, compared to those who didn’t meditate (39).
Becoming skilled in meditation may help you control or redirect the racing or “runaway” thoughts that often lead to insomnia.
Additionally, it can help relax your body, releasing tension and placing you in a peaceful state in which you’re more likely to fall asleep.
Summary: A variety of meditation techniques can help you relax and control the “runaway” thoughts that can interfere with sleep. This can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep and increase sleep quality.

10. Helps Control Pain

Woman Meditating at Home
Your perception of pain is connected to your state of mind, and it can be elevated in stressful conditions.
For example, one study used functional MRI techniques to observe brain activity as participants experienced a painful stimulus. Some participants had gone through four days of mindfulness meditation training, while others had not.
The meditating patients showed increased activity in the brain centers known to control pain. They also reported less sensitivity to pain (40).
One larger study looked at the effects of habitual meditation in 3,500 participants. It found that meditation was associated with decreased complaints of chronic or intermittent pain (1).
An additional study of meditation in patients with terminal diseases found meditation may help mitigate chronic pain at the end of life (4).
In each of these scenarios, meditators and non-meditators experienced the same causes of pain, but meditators showed a greater ability to cope with pain and even experienced a reduced sensation of pain.
Summary: Meditation can diminish the perception of pain in the brain. This may help treat chronic pain when used as a supplement to medical care or physical therapy.

11. Can Decrease Blood Pressure

Meditation can also improve physical health by reducing strain on the heart.
Over time, high blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump blood, which can lead to poor heart function.
High blood pressure also contributes to atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
A study of 996 volunteers found that when they meditated by concentrating on a “silent mantra” — a repeated, non-vocalized word — reduced blood pressure by about five points, on average.
This was more effective among older volunteers and those who had higher blood pressure prior to the study (41).
A review concluded that several types of meditation produced similar improvements in blood pressure (42).
In part, meditation appears to control blood pressure by relaxing the nerve signals that coordinate heart function, tension in blood vessels and the “fight-or-flight” response that increases alertness in stressful situations (43).
Summary: Blood pressure decreases not only during meditation, but also over time in individuals who meditate regularly. This can reduce strain on the heart and arteries, helping prevent heart disease.

12. You Can Meditate Anywhere

People practice many different forms of meditation, most of which don’t require specialized equipment or space. You can practice with just a few minutes daily.
If you want to start meditating, try choosing a form of meditation based on what you want to get out of it.
There are two major styles of meditation:
  • Focused-attention meditation: Concentrates attention on a single object, thought, sound or visualization. It emphasizes ridding your mind of attention and distraction. Meditation may focus on breathing, a mantra or a calming sound.
  • Open-monitoring meditation: Encourages broadened awareness of all aspects of your environment, train of thought and sense of self. It may include becoming aware of thoughts, feelings or impulses that you might normally try to suppress.
To find out which styles you like best, check out the variety of free, guided meditation exercises offered by UCLA and Head in the Clouds. They’re an excellent way to try different styles and find one that suits you.
If your regular work and home environments do not allow for consistent, quiet alone time, consider participating in a class. This can also improve your chances of success by providing a supportive community.
Alternatively, consider setting your alarm a few minutes early to take advantage of quiet time in the morning. This may help you develop a consistent habit and allow you to start the day positively.
Summary: If you’re interested in incorporating meditation into your routine, try a few different styles and consider guided exercises to get started with one that suits you.

The Bottom Line

Meditation is something everyone can do to improve their mental and emotional health.
You can do it anywhere, without special equipment or memberships.
Alternatively, meditation courses and support groups are widely available.
There’s a great variety of styles too, each with different strengths and benefits.
Trying out a style of mediation suited to your goals is a great way to improve your quality of life, even if you only have a few minutes to do it each day.