Eat your way to calm: nutrition and herbal support for anxiety


The word ‘anxiety’ seems to be omnipresent in many people’s vocabulary right now. There are, of course, many reasons for this and anxiety affects us all differently.

Feeling anxious can creep up on all of us at some point in our lives. It’s important, therefore, to have tools to deal with these feelings, and we can turn to nutrition for some answers.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares her five top nutrients and herbs that can help to calm the nerves and manage stress.


Known as one of our calming minerals, magnesium can certainly help when life becomes overwhelming.  This is because, as part of its many functions, magnesium is important for a good working nervous system. It is also key in many biochemical reactions related to the production of brain neurotransmitters.

A range of foods containing magnesium

A large percentage of people are deficient in magnesium because it’s found in foods that many don’t eat in sufficient quantities, namely leafy greens, and whole grains.  Plus, magnesium is further depleted when we’re stressed.

Make sure your diet is full of magnesium-rich foods including avocados, nuts, legumes, seeds, whole grains, and leafy greens such as spinach and kale. It’s good to supplement with the magnesium glycinate form, especially before bedtime, if sleep is an issue for you.

Vitamin B6

Just like the family of B-vitamins, vitamin B6 works extremely hard for us in keeping hundreds of our biochemical reactions in good working order.

Vitamin B6 is essential for keeping us calm because it’s needed to produce our key neurotransmitters, namely serotonin and dopamine.  Serotonin is often referred to as our ‘happy hormone’ because it’s needed for mood and motivation. Dopamine is more about stimulating our reward mechanisms, allowing us to feel pleasure and satisfaction.  These feelings also lead to calm and reduced feelings of anxiety.

A range of foods containing Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 works alongside magnesium in keeping the nervous system in good working order.  Foods that are rich in vitamin B6 include liver, tuna, fortified cereals, chickpeas, poultry, and salmon.  Whilst organ meats aren’t for everyone, liver does provide some amazing nutritional benefits, also being rich in vitamin A, essential for the immune system.  It’s worth a try for sure!


An adaptogenic herb, ashwagandha is one that can really encourage those feelings of calm and discourage anxiety. Adaptogens aid the body through stressful times but can also help when energy and mental focus are issues.

shutterstock_1181447482 ashwagandha Feb19

Adaptogens such as ashwagandha have been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years, a practice that is known to be gentle and healing.

Ashwagandha needs to be taken as a supplement and is readily available in the health food shops.


L-Theanine is an amino acid which is found mainly in plants and especially in green tea.  It has also been isolated in supplement form in order that we can fully benefit from its great soothing properties.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

L-theanine has been found to stimulate the relaxing neurotransmitter called GABA which is why it helps to instil calm in the body.  Interestingly, it also helps to mitigate some of the more stimulatory effects of caffeine, which can be problematic for some people.  This is why drinking green tea can help to calm the nerves.


Passionflower is a herb that also helps to increase levels of GABA in the brain. GABA appears to reduce activity of certain brain cells that might otherwise be ‘turned-on’, therefore contributing to those feelings of calm.

Close up of Passion Flower

It is, of course, important for us to function as well as possible throughout the day: poor sleep causes all kinds of issues, and also prevents us from enjoying our day as much as possible.  Importantly, passionflower can help support a good night’s sleep and of its many medicinal qualities, treating insomnia is certainly top of the list.

Passionflower can be used as a tea but is also available in supplement form for more noticeable results.

If you’re feeling anxious, then do try these nutrients and herbs.  Nature has provided us with some helpful solutions.


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