Food to help Reduce Mild Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression can affect so many aspects of our well-being. Assist mood with calming foods and avoid those that may contribute to symptoms.

Foods to avoid/reduce

Trytophan, Serotonin and Melatonin

Serotonin and its precursor tryptophan assist with symptoms of anxiety and feeling ‘wired but tired’, with the final neurotransmitter in this cascade, melatonin, promoting sleep. Serotonin is implicated in mechanisms such as social interaction, nutritional status and immunity , while also being involved in controlling negative thoughts and stress response.

Enjoy the following foods to reduce anxiety and promote sleep:

Banana and Green banana resistant starch contain a nutrient called 5-HTP, a precursor to serotonin, a healthy, easy way to boost mood. 

Kiwifruit may assist in promoting sleep and shortening the time it takes to fall asleep.

Salmon contains tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor (building block) of serotonin.

Turkey also contains tryptophan, and is rumoured to be the reason for the snooze after Thanks Giving!

Tart Cherry promotes melatonin production [5] assisting the ability to fall asleep and calm the mind. Look for this in a concentrated sugar free syrup.

Nuts and seeds are a great sources of minerals, one of which, magnesium, assists in relaxing muscles and promoting calm. Nuts contain melatonin in differing amounts.


To produce dopamine, tyrosine (and phenylalanine) are required, with sources mainly obtained through protein in the diet. Low dopamine is associated with lack of motivation, depression and mental exhaustion . The following foods can assist with low mood, or at particularly stressful times such as during exams or a heavy work load.

Eggs are a great source of phenylalanine while also being a light healthy protein option.

Avocadoes, a rich source of tyrosine, make the perfect combination with eggs – think of having an egg/avo smash on sourdough for a mood boosting breakfast.

All proteins; lamb, beef, pork, chicken, turkey and salmon, along with dairy and soy are rich sources of tyrosine.

For vegetarians, legumes can offer a plant-based option, look to consume lima beans in particular. Sesame seeds also offer a rich source.

Cacao is a beautifully uplifting food, with trace amounts of zinc, manganese, calcium, copper, iron and potassium. Creating a cacao elixir before bed is a lovely way to switch off from the day,

Choc cherry latte
1 tspn cacao
1 Dessertspoon tart cherry syrup
1/2 tspn organic vanilla essence
1 cup Coconut or macadamia milk

Sweetener of choice

OPTIONAL: Vegan marshmallows, 3
Warm milk though and add all other ingredients, mixing until combined.

Pour into cup and add marshmallows.

Serve warm to hot.

Find space, still your mind and breath


GABA is a calming neurotransmitter, with symptoms of anxiety leading to mild panic attacks, insomnia – inability to fall and stay asleep – and constantly wanting to be busy, symptoms common at times when our mind wont allow us to rest. Taurine is a precursor, with intolerances to foods such as wheat and gluten reducing availability of GABA.

Shellfish are a rich source of taurine, so foods like scallops, mussels and crab, along with edible seaweeds and tuna are beneficial sources

Calming theanine, found in green tea and matcha, assists GABA, while not being a direct source, theanine enhances GABA production to calm the mind and help to promote sleep.

Calming Matcha Tea
1 tspn Matcha powder
1/2 tspn organic vanilla essence
1 cup coconut or macadamia milk

OPTIONAL: sprinkle of nutmeg Warm milk through and add matcha powder and vanilla.

Pour into cup and sprinkle with nutmeg.
Serve warm/hot

  1.  Effect of kiwifruit consumption on sleep quality in adults with sleep problems – PubMed ( , Hsiao-Han Lin 1, Pei-Shan Tsai, Su-Chen Fang, Jen-Fang Liu
  2.  Serotonin and stress, F Chaouloff 1, O Berton, P Mormède
  3.  Roles of brain monoamine neurotransmitters in agonistic behavior and stress reactions, with particular reference to fish. Comp Biochem Physiol Part C: Pharmacol, Toxicol Endocrinol106:597–614, Winberg S , Nilsson GE, 1993.
  4. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) for AnxietyAn effective and safe natural treatment of anxiety.Posted Oct 08, 2018, James Lake (MD)
  5.  Pilot Study of the Tart Cherry Juice for the Treatment of Insomnia and Investigation of Mechanisms. American journal of therapeutics, 25(2), e194–e201, Losso, J. N., Finley, J. W., Karki, N., Liu, A. G., Prudente, A., Tipton, R., Yu, Y., & Greenway, F. L. (2018)
  6. file:///C:/Users/61409/Documents/AMINO%20ACID%20INDICATIONS%20DOSAGE%20CONTRA%20INDICATIONS/Neurotransmitter_Chart.p
  7. The potential protective effects of taurine on coronary heart disease – PubMed (

By SAM MURPHY,  Nutrition and Dietetic Medicine (BHSc)