Recent Blog Articles

Mind & Mood

Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety

August 28, 2019

About the Author

photo of Uma Naidoo, MD

Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor

Dr. Uma Naidoo is a nutritional psychiatrist and serves as the director of nutritional & lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. She is on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Naidoo trained at the Harvard … See Full Bio
View all posts by Uma Naidoo, MD


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


James Aiden
April 25, 2016

This is a perfect strategy one can adopt and all I want to write is thank you so much for this post and the strategy that you have mention in the post. Surely I am going to follow the tip.

April 25, 2016

Wonderful article with do’s & dont’s for the healthy life 🙂 Thank you for the valuable advice too

April 21, 2016

I can say that this works. I actually changed my diet along these lines for different reasons (diabetes) and found that my anxiety was lessened as well. Nice to have some confirmation behind it. Also my psychiatrist has had me on a low dose of magnesium (can’t remember off hand how much) for at least 3 years, and I believe it helps too. Thanks for this article!

April 21, 2016

You may not be aware, but undiagnosed diabetes or letting your blood sugar get too high will bring some anxiety with it. That is because when your body can’t keep the blood sugar in the normal range the usual way with insulin, it will try adding some cortisol-type hormones to the picture, to see if it can deal with it that way. It is something many newly diagnosed type II’s don’t always know. Sadly, some go on antidepressants (which can help raise blood sugar) instead of focusing on a better lifestyle, first. Seems like you have it under control, so good for you.

April 20, 2016

Any chance of a bibliography for this article? Would be much appreciated!

Uma Naidoo MD
April 21, 2016

The blog contains hyperlinks, and this links you directly to the journal references used throughout. Thanks

April 18, 2016

and we were just talking about asparagus the other night.

Douglas F Watt PhD
April 18, 2016

In general I’m very sympathetic to this kind of perspective, and a concerted focus on diet, lifestyle, sleep, exercise, and social support is desperately overdue in mainline psychiatry, where a psychologically blind reductionism has sold us the patently false notion that Axis I conditions can be easily reduced to a few simple molecular correlates (the ‘meme’ of a simple ‘chemical imbalance’), an idea that has been exposed scientifically, but which continues to generate staggering profits for big Pharma. The reality is that mainline antidepressants are minimally effective, while benzodiazepines and neuroleptics are dangerous and only temporarily effective. On the other hand,psychotherapy, lifestyle and dietary change are badly shorted, and generally neglected In virtually all mainline psychiatry. Most of our current treatments for the most commonplace Axis I disorders in psychiatry (depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) induce mitochondrial dysfunction, Increase insulin resistance, and promote obesity, and type II diabetes. How is it possible that the health of the brain and the health of the body are conceptually so uncoupled in our current system of care?

The only cautions I might offer about the author’s points would be the growing evidence base against the notion that whole grains are healthy, and the evidence that labeling polyphenols as ‘antioxidants’ is misleading. While they may be antioxidants in the micromolar concentrations achievable only in topical applications, in the nanomolar range achievable from virtually any form of oral consumption, they are not, but they are significantly anti-inflammatory, modulate numerous cell signaling pathways, including those involved in apoptosis and growth signals, and clearly were part of our ancient evolutionary diet(where a pa leolithic diet could conceivably involve up to a gram or more of polyphenol consumption per day. This suggests that polyphenols may may provide an unknown fraction of the many benefits of eating a diet of consisting of mostly fruits and vegetables.

Tere González Díaz
April 18, 2016

Very helpful information! Congrats from Yucatán México.

uma Naidoo MD
April 18, 2016

Gracias Tere, appreciate for your feedback

Agni Thurner
April 18, 2016

What are the quantities one must eat to get the daily quota of these vitamins, minerals, antioxidants? For instance how many oysters or cashews per day? per week?
In order to get all the nutrients ones needs, one has to write weekly menus of dishes that have the above mentioned foods, shop and then cook……very time consuming in this fast world we live today!
No wonder people prefer to take a multi vitamin a day!

uma Naidoo MD
April 18, 2016

Thanks for your comments Agni. My aim here is not a “prescription” of “10 oysters” but rather a guideline for slowly adapting one’s diet to ease certain symptoms and include better options in one’s daily diet.
Cooking, getting menus for the week and grocery shopping are all very time consuming for us, I agree, so I would ask our readers to do what they feel they can to eat healthier, and make better choices e.g. when they eat out or are food shopping. This is guided toward wellness, both body and mind. “

Roo Bookaroo
April 18, 2016

All this is fine and good.
But this is a Harvard publication, not a tabloid article.
It would be good to have notes listing the specific articles published in journals that are used for your posting and possibly offering links to them.

April 18, 2016

The most comprehensive scientific findings supporting the role of nutritional health that I have found are in a book by Michael Greger MD ,
How Not to Die.
It seemed to be a silly title ,but ,the idea is to know how to limit your chances for illness by being aware that our bodies are infinitely complex and require nutritionally rich foods in order to have the ability to heal.

Jennifer F
April 19, 2016

I absolutely agree with you – this is a Harvard publication not a supermarket tabloid. Why is this article in the Gazette? Is there a Harvard science or research connection? The Gazette has published these “diet tips and tricks” articles from the school of public health before. All the other articles in the Gazette are about Harvard research and goings on – which is why I read the Gazette. Why not hold HSPH to the same standard?

Nancy Donnelly
April 17, 2016

I am a senior (73 yrs young) and really enjoy your articles on nutrition! I follow your advice and I take No pharmasuticals! Dedicated spiritual life is also So important! ?. ??.

uma Naidoo MD
April 18, 2016

Thanks Nancy for your comments. I hope the advice allows you some guidance around healthy food choices. I am very glad you are feeling well and yes, the mind-body connection is key!

Many people still do require pharmaceuticals, and as a doctor I still support their use for my patients. I also always advise our readers to consult with their doctor before making any changes to their medications.

Maheshwar Naidoo
April 16, 2016

Wonderful article! very interesting.

Uma Naidoo MD
April 18, 2016

Thank you for your feedback, please follow our series on mood and food on this blog

April 15, 2016

This information was very helpful,it’s good to know that these foods can help with anxiety and depression. Thanks you

Uma Naidoo MD
April 16, 2016

Thanks Pam, so glad you found this to be useful. Please follow our future blogs on food and mood which will also cover cooking spices and herbs, and well as other foods that can affect our mental wellness.

April 15, 2016

It’s not just medication but articles and research of this nature helps us who don’t want to rely on tablets, thank you

uma Naidoo MD
April 16, 2016

Thanks Raj for your feedback and opinion. I think it is always important to integrate a healthy lifestyle including food into how we approach a path to wellness.

renee touriel
April 15, 2016

this was good reading and important information to start with…thank you…..renee touriel

Uma Naidoo MD
April 16, 2016

Thanks Renee, you make a good point about this being a place to start. We plan to build on this series and appreciate your interest.

Irene Fenswick
April 14, 2016

Thank you for posting this article. It’s very informative and helpful.

Uma Naidoo MD
April 15, 2016

Thank you for your feedback Irene! Please do follow our future blogs on mood and food.

April 14, 2016

Thank you for the great article! There are some things that I will definitely add to my diet now. Also, over the past decade I’ve found out that some herbs, like valerian, melissa, verbena and lavender help me calm down, so I add them to my foods and teas. There was some info on health. com and about anxiety-fighting herbs too lately, if I’m not mistaken.

Uma Naidoo MD
April 15, 2016

Falene, thank you so much for your feedback.
I hope you will incorporate some of the foods into your diet. I am not familiar with the science behind the products you mentioned, but I encourage you to discuss these with your doctor.
Please do follow our future posts on food and mood.

Jordan Fallis
April 13, 2016

This is all great advice!

I used to suffer from chronic depression and anxiety. I used to have to take 4 medications for it.

I was told I’d be on them for the rest of my life. But as a journalist, I was curious and wanted to get to the bottom of it.

I’m now off all medication and completely symptom free. Drugs and talk therapy aren’t the only solutions, yet people think they are the only options.

As mentioned above, zinc is very important to manage anxiety too.

A number of other things helped me recover. I write about all the treatments that have helped me overcome my anxiety naturally and permanently on my website

Hope this helps someone.

Uma Naidoo MD
April 16, 2016

Thanks for sharing that Jordan. My suggestions around food, herbs and spices are to intended share information that help people be mindful about the positive benefits of what they are eating, as a way to improve mental wellness. Sometimes small dietary changes make a bug difference over the course of time. I would still always suggest that anyone wanting to make a change in their medications, please consult their doctor first. Best of luck on your journey and thanks again.

Commenting has been closed for this post.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.