Vitamins and Minerals That Help Reduce Social Anxiety

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What is the relationship between vitamins and anxiety? Vitamins and minerals play a key role in maintaining good physical and mental health. While you may think mostly about the physical health benefits of vitamins and minerals, deficiencies in these important parts of your diet could actually worsen your social anxiety.

Below is a list of vitamins and minerals with relations to anxiety, and the foods that you should consume to ensure you are not deficient.

Vitamin C 

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is found in many fruits and vegetables such as oranges, red peppers, kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, strawberries, and grapefruit. One large orange provides you with 100 percent of the daily value (DV) of vitamin C of 60 mg for adults and children aged 4 and older. Many people also take vitamin C as a supplement in pill form that can be swallowed or chewed.

One small randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 42 high school students found that oral supplementation of vitamin C reduced anxiety levels. Although more studies are needed to confirm this finding, trying a diet high in vitamin C may offer an advantage for those with social anxiety disorder without any ill effects.

Meal and snack ideas that are high in vitamin C will include fruit salads and smoothies, as well as soups, wraps, salads, and sandwiches made with the vegetables listed above.

B Complex

The family of B complex vitamins includes all eight of the B vitamins: B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), B7 (biotin), B8 (inositol), B9 (folic acid), and B12 (cobalamin).

Below are some good sources of each of these:

B1: whole grains, potatoes, dairy products, and dried beans.

B2: dairy products, meat, eggs, and spinach.

B3: dairy products, nuts, poultry, fish, and eggs.

B5: sunflower seeds, avocados, corn, and broccoli.

B6: sunflower seeds, bananas, nuts, meats, fish, and eggs.

B7: corn, egg yolks, and milk.

B8: rice, citrus fruits, soy, and nuts.

B9: beans, legumes, citrus fruits, and dark green leafy vegetables.

B12: eggs, meat, and dairy products.

While each of these vitamins has different effects on the body, as a whole, there is evidence that supplementing with a vitamin B complex multivitamin may reduce feelings of anxiety.

A double-blind study with 80 healthy males aged 18 to 42 compared use of a daily multivitamin-mineral formula with a placebo control for 28 days. The multivitamin contained B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, B12, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Compared to the group taking the placebo, those taking the multivitamin showed significantly lower self-reported anxiety and perceived stress.

One small case-report study of subjects with anxiety also showed that use of niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) resulted in considerable relief from anxiety.

Therefore, a B complex supplement also containing minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and zinc may be helpful for those with social anxiety.

Recipe ideas that contain B vitamins include whole-grain snack bars, beet hummus, chickpea salads, green salad with pecans, lentil stew, and smoked salmon.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in small amounts in foods such as salmon, tuna, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Many breakfast cereals are also fortified with vitamin D, as well as some orange juice, dairy products, and soy milk.

The human body can also generate vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. However, it is difficult to know how much sun exposure you need, and the damaging risks of the sun make food sources generally a better alternative.

Although data has been mixed, one study on vitamin D and anxiety and affective disorders found that levels of calcidiol (a product of vitamin D produced in the body) were lower for age-matched patients with anxiety disorders. Therefore, it is possible that a deficiency of vitamin D could be linked to social anxiety.

Recipes to try that are high in vitamin D include a ricotta and yogurt parfait, frittatas, breakfast casseroles, and spiced hot chocolate.

Magnesium 

Magnesium is found in foods such as beans, nuts, bananas, soy products, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and green leafy vegetables. It is involved in a variety of functions in the body including muscle contraction.

One study provided evidence to suggest that magnesium may be helpful in treating mild anxiety. However, further randomized controlled trials are needed to establish the role of magnesium in the treatment of anxiety. If you have social anxiety disorder, it certainly can't hurt to make sure you are eating foods rich in magnesium.

Recipes rich in magnesium include bean soup and brown rice and beans.

Zinc

Zinc is found in foods such as beef, pork, lamb, poultry (dark meat), nuts, whole grains, and legumes.

One study of rats fed a zinc-deficient diet for 1 to 2 weeks found that they displayed an increase in anxiety-like behavior. Clearly more research is needed on this topic; however, you may wish to add zinc-rich foods to your diet if you have SAD.

Recipes high in zinc include many meat-based meals as well as coconut curry.

Iron

High iron foods include beef, liver, whole grains, nuts, sunflower seeds, dark leafy greens, tofu, and dark chocolate.

Research has shown that a deficiency in iron may be linked to anxiety. However, specific research relating iron to social anxiety has yet to be conducted.

Calcium

High calcium foods include milk, yogurt, dark leafy greens, cheese, broccoli, green beans, and almonds.

Like iron, calcium levels have been implicated in anxiety, but no specific research has been conducted on the link to social anxiety.

Recipes high in iron include taco salad, tofu, and broccoli stir-fry, grilled fish tacos, and Mediterranean wraps.

Chromium

Chromium is found in foods such as processed meats, whole grains, green beans, broccoli, nuts, and egg yolk. As with iron and calcium, chromium levels have been linked to anxiety. However, social anxiety has not been specifically studied.

Recipes high in chromium include orange bran muffins, tortellini and broccoli salad, and some sangrias.

A Word From Verywell

Not sure you are meeting the recommended DV for vitamins and minerals? Track your food intake on a site such as Myfitnesspal.com or work with a health professional like a registered dietitian to get a snapshot of your intake. While your first choice of vitamin source should be food, using a supplement may be helpful if you have dietary limitations or adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Sources:

Bičíková M, Dušková M, Vítků J, et al. Vitamin D in anxiety and affective disorders. Physiol Res. 2015;64 Suppl 2:S101-103.

Boyle NB, Lawton CL, Dye L. The effects of magnesium supplementation on subjective anxiety. Magnes Res. November 2016. doi:10.1684/mrh.2016.0411.

de Oliveira IJL, de Souza VV, Motta V, Da-Silvyujhhhhhhhhhhhhha SL. Effects of Oral Vitamin C Supplementation on Anxiety in Students: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Pak J Biol Sci. 2015;18(1):11-18.

Młyniec K, Davies CL, de Agüero Sánchez IG, Pytka K, Budziszewska B, Nowak G. Essential elements in depression and anxiety. Part I. Pharmacol Rep. 2014;66(4):534-544. doi:10.1016/j.pharep.2014.03.001.

Takeda A, Tamano H, Kan F, Itoh H, Oku N. Anxiety-like behavior of young rats after 2-week zinc deprivation. Behav Brain Res. 2007;177(1):1-6. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2006.11.023.