There are many ways to cope with stress, and what you eat plays a big role in how well you manage it. When you're feeling stressed, it's important to choose foods that will help lower your stress levels instead of making them worse. 

Eating healthy helps you maintain a balanced lifestyle, and it can also have an impact on your overall stress levels. Eating too much sugar or processed food can lead to a crash in energy and mood levels that can increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Conversely, incorporating more natural, nutritious food into your diet can not only improve gut health, but also make you feel calmer and more relaxed while reducing overall tension. 

Here are the top 10 foods that help with stress:

1) Almonds and other nuts - Foods that lower the stress hormone cortisol

Nuts are a great source of B vitamins, healthy fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium, helping to maintain the nervous system.  The stress hormone cortisol is a hormone sent out by the body during times of stress. Eating almonds, walnuts, and other nuts help reduce cortisol levels in the body and creates a sense of relaxation. A past study showed that pistachios, in particular, can help reduce stress levels. Just remember to limit yourself to a handful a day so you don't consume too many calories.

Foods like:

- Almonds

- Walnuts

- Pistachios

- Cashews

- Brazil Nuts

Helpful tip: if you can't have nuts, don't deprive yourself! Try nut-free foods like sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds instead but with the same nutrients as B vitamins.

2) Whole grains - Healthy carbohydrates to relieve stress levels

Whole grains are complex carbs that are great for relieving stress. They are packed with healthy carbohydrates and balance blood glucose which the body needs to help manage the effects of stress. Eating whole grains helps keep your blood sugar stable and prevents crashes in energy levels.

Foods like:

- Brown rice

- Oats

- Quinoa

- Barley

- Millet

Helpful tip: whole grains can be enjoyed in many forms. Try adding them to your favorite soups and salads, or use them as the base of a savory breakfast bowl. You can even enjoy complex carbs food in the form of crackers, wraps, and bread.

3) Dark chocolate - A sweet treat to reduce stress hormones

Dark chocolate is a great way to reduce cortisol levels. It contains natural and healthy antioxidants, which can help calm the body down during times of stress. Study shows that it helps reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which is why it can be so helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Foods like:

- Dark Chocolate

- Raw Cacao Powder

- Unsweetened Cocoa

Helpful tip: when you’re choosing dark chocolate, opt for one with a higher percentage of cocoa. The higher the percentage, the more antioxidants it contains. Enjoy it in small amounts to reap its stress-relieving benefits.

4) Leafy greens - Stress-reducing nutrients

Leafy greens like spinach and kale are powerhouses of stress-relieving nutrients. They contain some of the highest levels of magnesium, which helps to avoid high blood pressure and stabilize cortisol levels in the body. Eating leafy greens also boosts your serotonin levels, and reduces the level of stress hormones, which can help improve your mood.

Foods like:

- Radish

- Spinach

- Kale

- Swiss Chard

- Collards

Helpful tip: Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles can help reduce inflammation caused by acute stress. Also, try adding these foods to salads or grain bowls for a boost of probiotics and vitamins, as well as a boost of stress-busting nutrition to avoid having gut bacteria.

5) Yogurt - A probiotic powerhouse

Yogurt is packed with probiotics, which help improve digestion and boosts the immune system. It's also full of calming amino acids that help relieve stress levels. Eating yogurt regularly can help reduce symptoms and help to regulate blood pressure which makes you feel more relaxed as a well-being.

Foods like:

- Greek yogurt

- Plain yogurt

- Coconut yogurt

Helpful tip: Greek yogurt is a great way to get your probiotics and help lessen stress. Add some fresh fruit or honey for a delicious treat that won’t wreck your diet.

6) Fatty fish - An omega-3 fatty acids powerhouse

Omega-3s help reduce inflammation in the body, improve your mood, and may assist in lowering blood pressure. Eating fatty fish regularly can help regulate cortisol levels, reduce feelings of stress, and help with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Foods like:

- Salmon

- Mackerel

- Tuna

- Anchovies

- Herring

Helpful tip: Try swapping out chicken or beef for fatty fish a few times a week. You can also opt for vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids, like flaxseed and chia seeds.

7) Berries 

Berries are full of antioxidants that have anti-inflammatory properties in the body. They also contain natural sugars, which can give you an energy boost when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Eating a handful of berries every day can help reduce cortisol levels and keep you feeling relaxed.

Foods like:

- Strawberries

- Blueberries

- Raspberries

- Blackberries

- Goji berries

Helpful tip: Add a handful of fresh or frozen berries to your smoothie or oatmeal to keep your blood sugar steady - a meal that helps to fight stress.

8) Avocados - Stress-busting fatty acids

Avocados are full of healthy fats that help reduce cortisol levels which are involved in regulating the body’s response to stress. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help protect against the effects of chronic stress and can help you keep your mood stable.

Helpful tip: A medium-sized banana has less potassium than half an avocado. Try adding some mashed avocado to your sandwich or salad for a delicious boost of stress-busting nutrition.

9) Matcha green tea - A caffeine-free way to relieve stress

Matcha green tea is a great way to reduce cortisol levels without the jitters from caffeine. It contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps improve focus and has a calming effect. This can help you work or study without feeling too stressed about it. 

Foods like:

- Matcha green tea powder

Helpful tip: Make sure to buy high-quality matcha green tea powder, as the quality can vary. Opt for organic and shade-grown varieties if you can.

10) Citrus fruit packed with vitamin C

Citrus fruits are packed with vitamin C, which can help reduce cortisol levels and improve mood. They’re also a great source of fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar levels, helps to lower blood pressure, and can reduce feelings of stress. Study shows that vitamin C plays a role in the body's stress response.

Foods like:

- Oranges

- Clementines

- Tangerines

- Grapefruits

- Lemons

- Mandarin oranges

Helpful tip: Add fresh oranges to your lunch or snack on them in between meals with vitamin C which helps fight stress. You can also opt for orange juice but try to choose a brand with little or no added sugar.

Frequently Asked Questions

What foods should I avoid if I want to reduce stress? 

Eating unhealthy foods can definitely take a toll on your mental health, particularly when we're feeling stressed. Contrary to popular belief, stress snacking does not always involve a big ice cream sundae or a stack of chocolate chip cookies. 

Anything from french fries to poor food choices throughout the day can contribute to feelings of being overwhelmed and unmotivated. In today's always-on world, it might be tempting to fill up on whatever is convenient, but taking small steps like choosing healthier snacks can make a huge difference in reducing common stressors. 

Even if you don't have time for a sit down meal, something as simple as adding more vegetables or swapping out sugary drinks for water or tea can help ensure that you're keeping your mental health in check regardless of how stressful life might be right now.

How do I incorporate these foods into my eating habits?

There are many ways to incorporate these stress-reducing foods into your diet. Try adding salmon to your stir-fries or salads, having a handful of berries with breakfast, snacking on avocados throughout the day, and enjoying a cup of matcha green tea in the morning or afternoon. You can also add oranges to your lunch or snacks for more vitamin C.

What are the long-term benefits of eating stress-reducing foods?

Eating stress-reducing foods can help reduce cortisol levels, regulate blood sugar levels to prevent them from becoming too high or too low, and improve your mood. Over time, this can help you manage stress better and reduce depression, and lead to decreased anxiety. It can also lower your risk of developing certain chronic health conditions like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Eating a diet rich in stress-reducing foods can also provide you with essential nutrients like vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber which are important for your overall health.

How to combat stress

In addition to eating stress-busting foods, it's important to practice self-care and relaxation techniques. Taking time for yourself can help reduce feelings of stress and make you feel more relaxed. Exercise, mindfulness meditation, and guided breathing exercises are all great ways to combat stress. Additionally, eating a healthy diet that includes foods known for relieving stress can help ease symptoms.

What are the best ways to manage stress? 

The best way to manage stress is by practicing healthy habits such as eating a balanced habit, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and spending time with friends and family. It’s also important to set realistic goals for yourself and take time for yourself each day. Finally, don’t forget to laugh! Laughter can help reduce cortisol levels and boost your mood so it's worth trying. 

Are there any other ways to reduce stress?

Yes, there are many other ways to ease stress. Taking time to relax, and getting enough sleep are all important for reducing stress levels. Meditation and mindfulness can also help manage feelings of anxiety and improve focus. Talking about your problems with a trusted friend or professional is another great way to lessen stress.

Overall, it’s important to take care of your mental health and recognize when you need help managing your stress levels. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables is one small step towards reducing stress in the long term. So break the habit of "just" eating and adopt healthy eating. Make sure to add some of these top 10 foods that reduce stress to your day and see how they help you feel better!


When it comes to reducing stress, what you eat matters, these ten foods are packed with essential nutrients that help keep your cortisol levels in check, avoid high blood pressure, make you feel more relaxed, and boost your immune system. From fatty fish to matcha green tea, there’s something for everyone on this list. Add a few of these stress-busting foods to your diet and see how they help improve your mood and decrease anxiety.

April 06, 2023 — Paige Rife

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