Top 10 Foods for Stress Relief

by in Healthy Tips, April 15, 2010


Eat your way to a more relaxed state — and no, we don’t mean pigging out on high-calorie junk food. While there isn’t a cure-all food to magically erase frustration, you can get some stress relief with a combo of exercising, eating small meals throughout the day and getting more of these 10 fresh goodies.

1. Whole-Wheat Pretzels
Eating carbohydrate-rich foods gives you an energy boost and triggers the brain to release a feel-good chemical called serotonin. Opting for a whole-grain snack (cereals, pretzels, bread, crackers, etc.) provides extra fiber, too.

2. Carrots
Munching on crunchy foods also helps beat stress. Nutrient-rich carrots, celery and other crunchy, fresh veggies offer satisfying crispness but won’t bog you down with too many calories.

3. Tea
Calm frazzled nerves with a steaming cup of your favorite tea blend. The soothing warmth and tea’s plant compounds work together to level off your body’s response to stress. Both herbal and black tea can help.

4. Nuts
Stress runs you down, which leaves you open to sickness. Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are high in the antioxidant vitamin E and zinc — both good for boosting your immune system. Bonus: Those nuts are good sources of B-vitamins, which help the body manage stress, too. Since nuts are high in (healthy) fat, stick to a 1/4-cup portions.

5. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard and other leafy veggies like spinach are full of magnesium (a single cup covers 40% of your daily need); getting more magnesium can help control and limit your body’s release of the stress-spiking hormone cortisol. Science stuff aside, wilted greens are a delicious addition to soups, pasta and rice dishes or taste great just sautéed with olive oil and garlic.

6. Yogurt
Work more calcium into your diet with non-fat or low-fat yogurt — a sprinkle of nuts and some fresh fruit will turn it into an ultra-satisfying snack. The good-for-you part: Yogurt contains probiotics that help create a healthy and calm digestive system.

7. Chocolate
Chocolate lovers know that just a taste can cure all that ails them and there’s science to back it up. Research indicates that dark chocolate may lower levels of stress hormones. Chocolate also contains sugar (a carbohydrate), so it releases mood-improving serotonin. It’s alright to indulge; just keep the portions in check — shoot for one-ounce servings.

Read more about the health benefits of chocolate.

8. Milk
Have a glass to get more B-vitamins, protein, vitamin D and bone-building calcium to relieve tense muscles. Stick to the low-fat (1%) or skim varieties. If you prefer it with more flavor, have some with whole-grain cereal in the morning or sip on some chocolate milk around bedtime to bring on more restful sleep.

9. Banana and Avocado
That’s two things, we know, but what do these fruits have in common? They’re loaded with potassium, a vital mineral for keeping blood pressure low. Add sliced banana to your morning oatmeal or a half-cup of sliced avocado to a lunchtime salad or sandwich. That will cover your potassium needs for the day.

10. Fatty Fish
The heart-healthy omega-3 fats in fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna manage adrenaline levels to help keep you calm, cool and collected. They’re also good for just about every part of your body, including the eyes, skin and hair.

Read more about picking safe, sustainable fish.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. See Dana’s full bio »

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Comments (30)

  1. Aimee says:

    Absolutly, i totally agree with you. i'm a holistic nutritionist and i've studied this. Do not mistake me for a dietician. they are taught the minimal amount about food and how it affects the body whereas we've been taught the intricate details of how food affects the body and how detoxs help lesson the load on our systems and hence can then focus on healing and fighting off disease.

  2. @Amys_SSGF says:

    Everything on your list is part of my weekly diet except for chard, which is more of a bi-weekly food and I can't eat whole wheat pretzels; milk also is tough on my digestive system. To make sure I'm getting my vitamin D I eat yogurt fortified with it. I find that the crunchiness of carrots does calm my nerves and just holding a fragrant cup of warm tea helps my entire body relax.

  3. Food recipes says:

    This post confirms the findings of modern science and the practices of wellness therapists. The effect of food on our temperance is something we need take cognizance of as our everyday life depends to a great extent on our mood. Stress is mood. You mentioned Zinc in nuts in item 4 as helping retain an even composure. Stress creates free radicals which causes sleeplessness and irritability. Zinc as found in nuts restores us to normality. It is ironical that such a healthy mineral can also bog us with fats but then we have proportions to watch.

  4. I consume carrots, tea, almonds, bananas, and yogurt almost every day! Does the milk added to my cold cereal count?

  5. danawhite says:

    Hi Joseph –
    Absolutely! Any way you can add milk to your diet counts. Thanks for your comment.

  6. danawhite says:

    Hi Joseph –
    Absolutely! Any way you can add milk to your diet counts. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Midwest says:

    Sorry, my mistake, you didn't leave off chocolate, how did I overlook that lucky #7?! I saw it in the picture and then speeded right by that…?

  8. Toni says:

    Re the Chocolate: I hope people realize that they need to eat chocolate that is VERY low in sugar? Your regular chocolate bar won't do. Toni

  9. Midwest says:

    You left off chocolate. Chocolate has the same chemicals as falling in love and it's a lot cheaper and more convenient, less trouble. Highly therapeutic. Women know this for a fact.

  10. Glenn Robinson says:

    I pretty much eat along these line right now; the milk is pretty tough on my system I don't tolerate it well at all!

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