21 foods to reduce stress and anxiety

21 foods to reduce stress and anxiety

We all deal with stress and anxiety in one way or another. And the choices you make about what you eat can help lessen — or exacerbate — those feelings, experts say.

“A balanced, plant-based diet can’t eliminate stress from your life, but it can help lessen the negative results of stress and help you feel more balanced,” Frances Largeman-Roth, registered dietitian and author of ” Smoothies and juices,” says TODAY.com.

Along with other healthy behaviors, like staying physically active and sleeping well, eating nutritious meals and snacks can help support your mental health.

“Managing stress and anxiety involves a lot of things — some out of control, some out of control,” Grace Derocha, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told TODAY.com .

You might not be able to keep anxiety-inducing emails out of your inbox, for example, but you have control over what you munch on throughout the day. And opting for certain fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains when you get the chance can be a delicious way to control stress.

Try These Foods to Relieve Stress and Anxiety


“Cashews are an excellent source of zinc, a mineral that plays a major role in managing the body’s and brain’s response to stress,” dietician Keri Glassman told TODAY.com. And walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, which is basically the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids, says Largeman-Roth.


Whether you have it on toast or in tangy guacamole, avocado is an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids and many other compounds that help fight inflammation, says Glassman.

In particular, avocados are also high in alpha-linolenic acid, which “is known to help improve mood and reduce stress,” says Derocha.

Dark chocolate

“In its super dark, most natural state, dark chocolate has been linked to higher levels of serotonin,” says Glassman. Serotonin is a chemical neurotransmitter found in the gut and brain involved in regulating many bodily processes, including mood.

Dark chocolate also contains magnesium, says Glassman, which can reduce anxiety.


We’ve all heard jokes about the turkey putting us to sleep on Thanksgiving, and “it’s true that the high levels of the amino acid tryptophan in turkey are helpful in calming you down,” says Largeman-Roth.

This is because the body uses tryptophan to make serotonin and melatonin, both of which can contribute to feelings of relaxation. If you’re not a fan of turkey, there are plenty of other foods that contain tryptophan, including milk, seeds, eggs, and cheese, says MedlinePlus.


Citrus fruits like grapefruits and oranges are high in vitamin C, “which has been shown to lower cortisol levels in the body and reduce the physical and psychological effects of stress,” says Glassman. Vitamin C is also useful for supporting the immune system, adds Derocha.

Leafy greens

Both Glassman and Derocha suggest incorporating dark leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and broccoli, into your diet. They’re “packed with folic acid, a nutrient that helps maintain normal serotonin levels,” says Glassman.

Complex carbohydrates

Foods containing complex carbohydrates are thought to boost serotonin in the brain, contributing to a calming effect, explains the Mayo Clinic. For more, opt for whole-grain breads and cereals, as well as quinoa and brown rice.

In particular, experts recommend eating oats and oatmeal to get complex carbohydrates. Oats also contain tryptophan, “making them a great way to start or end your day,” says Largeman-Roth.

oily fish

“The omega-3 content, along with the vitamin D, of oily fish can help regulate the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel calm,” says Largeman-Roth. Adding more of these types of fish — like salmon, tuna and sardines — to your diet can be “smart for your heart as well as your mood,” she says.

herbal tea

Just thinking about drinking a nice hot cup of tea on a gloomy day can be soothing. But certain types of herbal teas, such as those containing soothing chamomile or peppermint, can actually contribute to feelings of relaxation, says Largeman-Roth.


Eating artichokes is a great way to get healthy fiber, but these vegetables also contain prebiotics called fructo-oligosaccharides, Derocha explains, “which feed the good bacteria in the gut.” Some research on mice suggests that this compound can reduce the effects of stress on the body.


“Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables contain magnesium, vitamin C, and folic acid,” says Derocha, which can help manage symptoms of depression. “Broccoli is also high in sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has neuroprotective properties and may offer calming and antidepressant effects,” she adds.


Look to seeds, especially pumpkin seeds and chia seeds, for magnesium, says Largeman-Roth. Magnesium can help with sleep, serotonin levels and mood, TODAY.com previously explained.


Berries are an excellent source of several important mood-enhancing compounds. “Blueberries are high in flavonoids, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties,” Derocha explains. “They may help reduce stress-related inflammation and also protect against stress-related cell damage.”

Strawberries, which contain melatonin and vitamin C, are also a great anti-stress option.


Matcha tea contains caffeine, so it won’t put you to sleep. But it’s also “high in L-theanine, which is a non-protein amino acid with powerful stress-relieving properties,” says Derocha. You can even replace your morning cup of coffee with a frothy cup of matcha.


Oysters provide a surprisingly high amount of zinc, which has antioxidant properties and therefore can reduce the effects of stress on your body, Derocha explains.


Yogurt is one of the few foods high in vitamin B-12, which “regulates cortisol,” says Largeman-Roth. “So getting enough of this nutrient in your diet is smart for reducing stress.”


Much like these dark leafy greens and hearty greens, Derocha notes that beets contain a high amount of folate, a compound that may support serotonin production.


Chickpeas are a good plant source of tryptophan, “which our bodies need to produce mood-boosting neurotransmitters,” says Derocha. Ultimately, these can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Black beans

Fiber- and protein-rich black beans are also a great source of mood-boosting magnesium, says Largeman-Roth. Magnesium “may also help you relax by reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone.”


Another great source of stress-reducing vitamin B-12, as well as many other nutrients, eggs are a great way to start your day off right.

Balance is key

“Diets consisting primarily of processed foods, with few fresh fruits and vegetables, are associated with higher stress levels,” says Largeman-Roth. But when you’re tired and overworked, it’s tempting to turn to sugary foods for an energy boost.

This boost may last for a little while, “but when your blood sugar drops, you’re going to have another quick snack and the cycle repeats itself,” says Largeman-Roth.

Instead, looking for nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and whole grains like those listed above will help keep you calm and fueled.

But “these are just a few examples of specific foods to include in a diet,” says Derocha. “Ultimately, remember to choose a variety of nutrient-dense foods. Balancing food groups, including a colorful diet, and portion control (based on) your goals are key. health.”

Keep in mind that “everything works together”, as Largeman-Roth says. And eating more nutritious food helps you train and sleep better, which can help you deal with stress and anxiety more effectively.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *