The Foods Dr. Oz Claimed Could Fight Anxiety

If you live with anxiety or know someone who does, you may be aware that it can be quite debilitating at times. From Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) to social anxiety, mental illness is on the rise, and not only because of the recent pandemic. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 6.8 million Americans are affected by GAD every year, with women being twice as likely to be impacted. People who have anxiety may also experience physical symptoms, such as stomachaches and headaches. 

Dr. Mehmet Oz, celebrity doctor and heart surgeon, tweeted a link to a 2017 article that claimed certain foods can "quiet your stress and anxiety." The caption stated, "Anxiety can be a debilitating problem. Fight it naturally with these 7 foods." 

Dr. Oz received some backlash for this article, notably in a May 2017 op-ed featured in Forbes titled, "America, We Need to Break up with Dr. Oz."  Forbes contributor Kavin Senapathy stated that Dr. Oz should not have made such claims. "Suggesting that anxiety disorders can be treated with food is irresponsible — these disorders affect millions of Americans and are often debilitating," Senapathy wrote. 

While we know a change in diet alone cannot treat anxiety, it may help when it comes to easing symptoms. We further explored the claims made by Dr. Oz.

Try these foods if you are feeling anxious

Chickpeas are one of the anxiety-fighting foods on Dr. Oz's list, which was published on the Dr. Oz website. Karen Ansel, a dietitian in New York, agrees that chickpeas can reduce stress. "Roasted chickpeas are an amazing snack for warding off anxiety because they're rich in vitamin B6, which is necessary for your brain to manufacture serotonin," she told Everyday Health. Dr. Oz likes that chickpeas are high in iron because low iron levels can result in lightheadedness, racing heartbeat, and depression.

Another anti-anxiety food Dr. Oz mentions is dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants and is known to increase serotonin levels. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Proteome Research suggests that eating about 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate daily can help minimize cortisol (the stress hormone) production. Furthermore, Sarah Gold Anzlovar, a Boston-based dietitian, told Everyday Health that dark chocolate may improve your mood.

Chamomile tea is also on Dr. Oz's list of foods that can reduce anxiety, and Healthline notes that this tea has sedating and relaxing properties. A 2016 study published in Phytomedicine even indicated that long-term chamomile consumption can significantly reduce moderate-to-severe GAD symptoms.

Along with other experts, science seems to agree that the foods Dr. Oz suggested to help fight anxiety are worth a try. While we advise consulting with your doctor for the best course of action, making some dietary changes may not be a bad idea, either.