What food is good for calming nerves?

Quick Answer

Certain foods are particularly good for helping to calm and soothe nerves. Foods that are high in magnesium, vitamin B6, tryptophan, and antioxidants can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. Some great options to help calm the nerves include fatty fish like salmon, avocados, turkey, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, whole grains, chamomile tea, and dark chocolate.

What causes nerves?

Nerves and anxiety can be caused by many factors, including:

  • Stress – Work, family, financial, or other stresses can severely impact nerves.
  • Chemical imbalance – Low levels of serotonin, GABA, and other brain chemicals can lead to increased nerves.
  • Medical conditions – Some medical conditions like hypoglycemia, hyperthyroidism, or hormone imbalances can cause increased anxiety.
  • Medications – Certain medications or withdrawal from medications can trigger nervousness as a side effect.
  • Caffeine – Too much caffeine from coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks can stimulate nerves.
  • Poor diet – Eating too much sugar, refined carbs, and unhealthy fats and not enough nutrients can cause anxiety.
  • Lack of sleep – Not getting enough quality sleep often results in feeling on-edge.
  • Genetics – Some people are simply prone to higher anxiety levels due to genetics.

Many factors beyond just diet can contribute to feelings of stress and nerves. Making lifestyle changes in areas like exercise, sleep, meditation, counseling, and medication may be necessary in addition to dietary changes for some people.

How does food impact nerves?

The foods we eat play an important role in how our brains function and directly impact mood and stress levels. Certain nutrients are critical for the brain chemicals and processes that help maintain a calm, relaxed state. Meanwhile, other foods can contribute to feelings of anxiety and jitteriness.

Some of the main ways food influences nerves and anxiety include:

  • Blood sugar regulation – Keeping blood sugar balanced helps prevent energy and mood crashes.
  • Hormone regulation – Nutrients like magnesium contribute to keeping stress hormones balanced.
  • Neurotransmitters – Amino acids in foods are used to produce calming neurotransmitters like serotonin.
  • GABA – Nutrients in foods help maintain optimal levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.
  • Inflammation – Some foods reduce inflammation while others may promote it, impacting mental health.
  • Digestion – A healthy gut microbiome aids digestion and promotes good mental health.

Eating nutrient-dense whole foods and avoiding inflammatory trigger foods can go a long way in keeping nerves calm and promoting a relaxed state of mind.

Best foods for calming nerves

Fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout, tuna and herring are excellent foods for helping calm nerves. These fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce anxiety. Consuming adequate omega-3s may also promote brain health and regulate neurotransmitters like serotonin that influence mood.


Avocados are an amazing food for mental health. They are packed with antioxidants, fiber, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E and monounsaturated fats that reduce inflammation. Avocados also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that helps promotes calming serotonin levels in the brain.


Turkey is a lean, low-fat protein source that includes high amounts of tryptophan, the amino acid precursor to serotonin. Consuming tryptophan-rich foods helps boost serotonin production and has a soothing effect on the nerves. Turkey also has B vitamins that help regulate stress hormones.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews and pistachios and seeds like pumpkin, chia and flax are wonderful options for calming anxiety. They are fantastic sources of magnesium, a mineral that most people don’t get enough of. Magnesium has relaxing, stress-reducing properties and helps regulate neurotransmitters.

Leafy greens

Leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale,swiss chard and romaine lettuce are loaded with magnesium, folate, antioxidants and fiber that may help lower anxiety levels. Greens also contain prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in your gut, which improves digestive health and mental well-being.

Whole grains

Whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley and farro are complex carbohydrates that are digested slowly, helping to keep blood sugar stable. They also provide B vitamins and magnesium, which are important nutrients for optimal nerve function and stress response.

Chamomile tea

Chamomile is well-known for its soothing effects. This herb contains apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in the brain that promote relaxation and sleep and reduce anxiety. Drinking chamomile tea helps calm the body and nerves.

Dark chocolate

The cocoa in dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids, notably one called epicatechin. Epicatechin has been shown to boost levels of serotonin and other feel-good endorphins, reducing stress. Opt for dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage.

Foods to avoid for calming nerves

While loading up on the right nutrients is key, it’s equally important to avoid foods that can make anxiety and nerves worse, such as:

  • Alcohol – Alcohol depletes magnesium and vitamin B levels and disrupts sleep.
  • Caffeine – Too much caffeine from coffee, tea and sodas overstimulates the nervous system.
  • Sugary foods – Foods high in sugar cause blood sugar spikes and crashes.
  • Refined carbs – Highly processed grains spike blood sugar and deplete B vitamins.
  • Fried foods – Trans fats found in fried and processed foods promote inflammation.
  • Artificial ingredients – Chemical preservatives and colors may influence anxiety.

Limiting or avoiding these nerve-aggravating foods and ingredients can help maintain inner calm and peace.

Can diet alone reduce anxiety?

While eating a diet full of calming nutrients may help substantially lower anxiety levels for some people, it’s unlikely that food alone can completely eliminate anxiety in those with moderate to severe symptoms. Anxiety disorders sometimes require professional treatment through counseling and medication in addition to lifestyle and dietary changes.

However, making dietary improvements can potentially allow some people to lower the dose of anti-anxiety medications needed under a doctor’s care. For mild cases of anxiety, eating a balanced diet high in foods and nutrients that research has shown to calm nerves may help reduce symptoms and potentially avoid the need for medication.

Putting it all together

6 steps for using food to calm nerves

Here are some positive steps you can take with your diet to help soothe anxiety and nerves:

  1. Load up on magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, salmon, avocados, nuts and seeds.
  2. Eat tryptophan-boosting foods like turkey, fatty fish, eggs, dairy and seeds.
  3. Reduce inflammation with anti-inflammatory spices like turmeric and omega-3 fats.
  4. Stabilize blood sugar with complex carbs like whole oats and quinoa.
  5. Stay hydrated with plenty of water, herbal tea and broth-based soups.
  6. Limit caffeine, alcohol, fried foods, added sugars and refined carbs.

Making a few simple substitutions like having an avocado instead of donut, salmon instead of steak, or nuts instead of chips can make a difference. Consistency is key, so try to incorporate these calming foods into your daily diet.

Supplements for anxiety

In addition to dietary changes, some supplements may help keep anxiety under control, including:

  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Omega-3 fish oil
  • GABA
  • L-theanine
  • Ashwagandha
  • Kava kava
  • Valerian root
  • Chamomile

Speak with your doctor before taking any new supplements, especially if you are already on medication.

When to see a professional

If you are experiencing severe or worsening anxiety, it’s important to consult a medical health professional. Look for help right away if anxiety symptoms:

  • Are constant and persisting daily
  • Prevent you from performing daily activities
  • Cause problems with work, school or relationships
  • Include panic attacks, obsessive thoughts or compulsive behaviors
  • Include suicidal thoughts

A combination approach of medications, therapy, lifestyle changes like exercise and dietary changes often yields the best results for conquering anxiety disorders.


What you eat plays an important role influencing mood, stress levels and anxiety. Focusing on a diet full of foods and nutrients shown to calm nerves can help reduce worry, fear, and agitation. Be sure to also get regular exercise, quality sleep, social connection, and professional support when needed. With consistency, a healthy diet may help you find the inner peace your nervous system has been searching for.

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