How to arrest the symptoms of Panic Attacks with the right food choices?

A racing heart, feeling out of breath and overwhelming anxiety.  Sounds familiar? Panic attacks are all too common now in India and in other countries.  In US alone, about 11 % of the population is believed to suffer from panic attacks.

Panic attacks have a sudden onset with a feeling of fear and a desire to escape from the place where the attack began.   Many causes of panic attacks are known, including depression, smoking, chronic illnesses, stress, thyroid disorders and so on.

Foods play very crucial roles in inhibiting and enhancing these hormone levels.  Besides, foods provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are important for overall body and mental health.
Foods high in sugars and fats may be seen as “comfort foods” but they actually deprive you of comfort by increasing harmful free radicals in the body that in turn, increase risk of inflammation and cortisol levels.  Its best to avoid consuming sugary beverages, sweets, and junk foods even when depressed as these are counterproductive and can increase your stress levels.

Here are some key foods that can help alleviate panic attack symptoms:

Bran and germ of whole grain cereals: The outer bran and the inner germ of whole grain cereals contain the crucial Vitamin B called thiamine.  This is a water soluble vitamin that regulates many of the neurological functions, and it needs to be supplied through the daily diet since the body does not store the vitamin.   A number of health problems including mild depression, to chronic problems like dementia and possible Alzheimer’s, beriberi, Korsakoff’s psychosis and Wernicke’s disease are caused by severe thiamine deficiency.   Add some bran and wheat germ to the breakfast cereal or to the rotis to get a good dose of thiamine.

Fruits and vegetables: Antioxidants are a group of different compounds that work to prevent cell damage.  Oxidative stress is a term used to describe excessive free radicals that damage the DNA of cells, which lead to chronic diseases including cancer, Alzheimers, and other mental illnesses.   Antioxidants quench the free radicals by neutralizing them.  The colors of fruits and vegetables especially the rich and dark colors of purple, deep red, yellow, orange and green have anthocyanins which are powerful antioxidants.  Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits and amla, guava, capsicum, and beta carotene found in yellow orange fruits and vegetables are effective antioxidants that improve overall health and mental well being.  Get at least 5 servings of varied colored fruits and vegetables in your daily plate.  One serving of fruit or vegetable is about 100 grams or one medium sized fruit.

Nuts: Studies have analysed the relationship between blood levels of zinc and anxiety levels.  They found that zinc supplementation helped improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and panic attacks.  Low zinc levels also cause growth retardation in children, skin lesions and poor appetite.
While seafood, especially oysters, red meat are rich in zinc, for vegetarians nuts and seeds are the best sources.  A handful of mixed nuts may provide the zinc you need in a day.  Walnuts especially are great in both zinc and omega 3 that provides a key brain nutrient called EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) that lines the brain cells.

Green leafy vegetables:   The greens are rich in chlorophyll and a key mineral – magnesium. Magnesium is an important trace mineral in the human body, and plays a role in brain biochemistry and the fluidity of neuronal membrane. Magnesium is also involved in production of an important antioxidant called glutathione. Deficiency in magnesium is known to cause – neuromuscular and psychiatric symptoms, including different types of depression.

Green leafy vegetables including spinach, mustard, pudina, and amaranth are great sources of magnesium.  Whole grain cereals like brown rice, millets and pulses like black beans, rajma, horsegram are also rich sources.   Seeds and nuts, banana and dark chocolate are other sources of magnesium.


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