Stressed Out? These 14 Foods Can Help.

Jennifer Cohen | Entrepreneur


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Feeling stressed? Welcome to the club.

Everyone is impacted by stress even as research shows too much stress can do more than impact your health and happiness — it can actually impair your brain’s ability to block toxins. Chronic stress can weaken your immune system and even damage your artery walls.

While regular exercise and breathing techniques can help, another good option is to revamp your diet — not to eat less, but to add these stress-busting foods. Adding just two or three of these to your daily food intake can really make a difference.

Vegetables like spinach and kale are high in folate, which makes them fantastic stress busters! Folate produces dopamine (the brains’ pleasure chemical) and that is a GREAT thing. There’s a correlation between folate and lower levels of depression.

Best of all, the consumption of dark leafy greens will help decrease your cognitive decline as you age. According to a 2015 research study by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), adding more spinach, kale and collard greens to your daily diet will increase your vitamin K consumption, which can help preserve your memory and thinking skills. So next time you have a salad, make it the spinach salad. With the oily dressing and bacon on the side (or not at all!) of course.

These little gems are not only high in folate like leafy greens, they are also packed with nearly 20 vitamins and minerals including vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B and Potassium. Folate helps to prevent the build-up of homocysteine, a substance that can impair circulation and delivery of nutrients to the brain. Excess homocysteine can also interfere with the production of seratonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which regulate mood, sleep and appetite . . . all VERY important things when trying to keep your stress levels low.

They also have zero cholesterol and zero sodium, but they do contain saturated fat, which some studies have linked to higher risks of cardiovascular disease, so avoid making the avocado your main course.

Blueberries are packed with antioxidants, which is why they are often referred to as one of the healthiest foods in the world. They are low in calories and have very high levels of nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin K and Manganese. Manganese can help with bone structure and bone metabolism, and vitamin C helps to maintain cell health, which our bodies need to combat stress. You can either add a few berries to yogurt, oatmeal, salad — or just grab a handful as a snack on your way out the door. Berries might be one of the easiest foods to integrate into your daily diet.

When you are stressed, you may be inclined to dig into some chocolate. When that happens, make sure you are reaching for dark instead of milk — that way, you may actually do yourself some good. A 2011 Chemistry Central Journal study showed that dark chocolate contained more antioxidant activity, polyphenols and flavanols than other fruits they tested, which included blueberries and acai berries. Dark chocolate can also help lower blood pressure, which is great since lower blood pressure decreases feelings of stress.


Oatmeal is a non-wheat grain, high in antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds called polyphenols. Most notable is a unique group of antioxidants called avenanthramides, which are almost solely found in oats and are natural anti-inflammatory qualities.

Avenanthramides help lower blood pressure levels by increasing the production of nitric oxide, a gas molecule that helps dilate blood vessels and leads to better blood flow, which in turn reduces stress.

As an added bonus, oatmeal helps to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol. If you think oatmeal is boring, then think outside the box. Go ahead and add fresh berries (that’s TWO super foods together!) and toasted nuts to the top of your bowl.

Research studies have found garlic supplementation to have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure and stress levels. It is also loaded with antioxidants and makes everything taste better. In addition to reducing blood pressure, garlic has been shown to cut down on the number and length of flus and colds that people contract throughout the year. So, because stress weakens your immune system, you’ll absolutely benefit from working some garlic into your daily diet.

Oysters are incredibly high in zinc. This essential trace element is only needed in small amounts, but it is important to the system. The main function of zinc is to boost the body’s immune system, which is advantageous for cold prevention. Zinc deficiency is associated with anxiety, and each oyster contains roughly eight to nine milligrams of zinc. Since the recommended daily value for zinc is just 15 milligrams, adding even one oyster to a meal will give you the boost you need.

The tryptophan in turkey is responsible for your entire family falling asleep after Thanksgiving dinner, but its calming effect is real. In a study published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, researchers found that people who took tryptophan supplements for 15 days reported higher levels of agreeableness than participants who took placebos. Tryptophan increases serotonin, so grab yourself a turkey sandwich (preferrably on whole grain) once a week. Better yet, add avocado to that meal and you’ve got two stress-busting super foods mixed together!


Many researchers consider DHA to be the most important fat found in the human brain, and the unusual concentration of this omega-3 fatty acid in salmon helps explain the research-documented benefits of salmon and omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 fatty acids can help fight anxiety and decrease the risk of depression, as they help to control brain inflammation. In addition, these omega-3 fatty acids also contribute to improved heart health. Most fish, particularly salmon, are incredibly rich in omega-3s, so find a way to infuse (wild-caught, if possible) salmon into your week and your heart will thank you.

A 2009 study out of the University of Pennsylvania showed that participants who took chamomile capsules reported significantly lower levels of anxiet. The dynamic compound in chamomile key oil is known as bisabolol, which has a number of anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. You can get the same results from chamomile in its tea form, so at the end of your day, kick of your feet up and enjoy a cup of chamomile tea . . . maybe even with a square of dark chocolate.

Beneficial bacteria (the good stuff) have a direct effect on your brain chemistry. They assist your digestive process and support your immune system. By eating fermented foods, you can help balance the flora in your gut and help ward off things like anxiety and depression. Some great fermented foods to add into your diet are yogurt, wine, pickles and cheese.

Yes, I know that sunshine is not actually food, but taking in a daily dose of sunshine might help stabilize your mood.

Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, increases with exposure to bright light and decreases with less sun exposure. People with low levels of vitamin D are 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who get healthy doses of the big yellow star.

Low vitamin D levels are also associated with an increased risk of panic disorders. While you can get some vitamin D in foods like salmon, egg yolks, and mushrooms, your best bet for optimizing your vitamin D levels is by getting regular sun exposure.

Magnesium, which acts as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin, is well-known for its role in helping to regulate your emotions and enhance well-being. Sunflower, pumpkin and sesame seeds are excellent sources of magnesium, and these are easily added to salads, oatmeal or even just consumed as a snack. Increasing your magnesium levels will help you feel less anxiety, be less prone to panic attacks and have a decreased risk for depression.

Another good source of magnesium, cashews are also cholesterol-free and loaded with antioxidants that keep you away from heart disease. With so much magnesium and antioxidants, cashew nuts help lower your blood pressure. In turn, that reduces your risk of heart disease and that’s a sure fire way to reduce your long-term stress levels.

Introducing these super foods into your weekly intake will help reduce your stress level, make you feel more productive and keep your anxiety at arm’s length.

If you can’t fit all of these into your schedule (or just don’t like some of them), then don’t worry: Even one or two of these a day can make a difference. Enjoy!

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