Foods to Eat When Stressed

by Current
April 7, 2021

By Crosby Wellness Center Staff

Your gut is lined with more than 100 million neurons meaning that stress can affect your digestive health along with your mental health. Stress can cause ongoing digestive problems, such as constipation or (at the other end of the scale) diarrhea.

Try these foods during stressful times in your life to combat stress.

Soothing Drinks

Take a calming, warm drink, such as a cup of tea, for a soothing effect. Certain herbs have been shown to have a relaxing effect on their own. One study published in March 2013 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology suggests chamomile may reduce anxiety by helping rewire the body’s stress response, and increasing production of the feel-good hormones serotonin and dopamine.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate feels like such an indulgence and can treat stress in two ways. It can be a real treat to simply savor a piece of it, and that feeling alone can help reduce stress. It is is also rich in antioxidants, can also lower levels of stress hormones in the body. Keep serving size in mind with dark chocolate, as the calories can add up quickly. Stick to a 1-oz serving or less of at least 60 percent cacao dark chocolate daily.

Whole-Grain Carbohydrates

The right carbs can increase levels of serotonin, a chemical in the body that helps boost mood and reduce stress. More serotonin means more concentration and a more productive workday. Complex carbs, digest more slowly and keep blood sugar levels more even. Complex carbs include sweet potatoes and whole grains (such as whole-grain bread, quinoa, brown rice, and steel-cut or old-fashioned oats).


The potassium-rich fruit contains the mood-boosting chemical dopamine, along with magnesium, levels of which plummet during stressful times. Bananas are furthermore a rich source of certain B vitamins, such as vitamin B6, which helps the nervous system run correctly, and can decrease stress and fatigue.


Even mild dehydration can increase cortisol levels, which contributes to increased stress. The average woman needs about 2.7 liters of water per day, while the average man needs about 3.7. (About 80 percent of that hydration should come from beverages, whereas the remaining 20 percent can come from food.)


Avocados are packed with healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium, and fiber, making for a perfect stress-fighting snack. The healthy fat and fiber in avocados can help contribute to satiety, discouraging you from unhealthy snacking when you’re stressed.

Leafy Greens

Leafy-green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, as well as other raw fruits are a rich source of magnesium–regulating cortisol and blood pressure levels. Plus, green leafy veggies contain folate, which plays a key role in the production of the feel-good chemical dopamine.

Stress-Fighting Pantry Staples:

Olive oil
Whole grains (brown rice, whole-grain pasta, quinoa, barley, farro, etc.)
Oats (old-fashioned or steel-cut)
Dark chocolate (60% cacao or greater)
Unsalted nuts (especially almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios)
Seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, chia seeds, etc.)
Decaf tea (especially black, green, and chamomile)

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