18 Terrific Foods to Help Relieve Stress
If you’re feeling stressed, it’s only natural to seek relief.
While occasional bouts of stress are difficult to avoid, chronic stress can take a serious toll on your physical and emotional health. In fact, it may increase your risk of conditions like heart disease and depression (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
Interestingly, certain foods and beverages may have stress-relieving qualities.
Here are 18 stress-relieving foods and beverages to add to your diet.
This vibrant green tea powder is popular among health enthusiasts because it’s rich in L-theanine, a non-protein amino acid with powerful stress-relieving properties.
Matcha is a better source of this amino acid than other types of green tea, as it’s made from green tea leaves grown in shade. This process increases its content of certain compounds, including L-theanine (5Trusted Source).
Both human and animal studies show that matcha may reduce stress if its L-theanine content is high enough and its caffeine is low (6Trusted Source).
For example, in a 15-day study, 36 people ate cookies containing 4.5 grams of matcha powder each day. They experienced significantly reduced activity of the stress marker salivary alpha-amylase, compared with a placebo group (7Trusted Source).
Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that’s packed with stress-fighting nutrients.
Low levels of this mineral are associated with conditions like anxiety and panic attacks. Plus, chronic stress may deplete your body’s magnesium stores, making this mineral especially important when you’re stressed (10Trusted Source).
Although cortisol levels are tightly regulated, chronic stress can lead to cortisol dysfunction, which may cause inflammation, pain, and other adverse effects (12Trusted Source).
An 8-week study in women with excess weight or obesity found that those who ate a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense carbs had significantly lower levels of salivary cortisol than those who followed a standard American diet high in refined carbs (13Trusted Source).
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish that’s typically made with napa cabbage and daikon, a type of radish. Fermented foods like kimchi are packed with beneficial bacteria called probiotics and high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (15Trusted Source).
Research reveals that fermented foods may help reduce stress and anxiety. For example, in a study in 710 young adults, those who ate fermented foods more frequently experienced fewer symptoms of social anxiety (16Trusted Source).
Many other studies show that probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods like kimchi have beneficial effects on mental health. This is likely due to their interactions with your gut bacteria, which directly affect your mood (17Trusted Source).
Artichokes are an incredibly concentrated source of fiber and especially rich in prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut (18Trusted Source).
Plus, one review demonstrated that people who ate 5 or more grams of prebiotics per day experienced improved anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as that high quality, prebiotic-rich diets may reduce your risk of stress (20Trusted Source).
Artichokes are also high in potassium, magnesium, and vitamins C and K, all of which are essential for a healthy stress response (14Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).https://3451b02bc90ac9dced121690a5e0e3da.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Organ meats, which include the heart, liver, and kidneys of animals like cows and chickens, are an excellent source of B vitamins, especially B12, B6, riboflavin, and folate, which are essential for stress control.
Supplementing with B vitamins or eating foods like organ meats may help reduce stress. A review of 18 studies in adults found that B vitamin supplements lowered stress levels and significantly benefited mood (22Trusted Source).
Just 1 slice (85 grams) of beef liver delivers over 50% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B6 and folate, over 200% of the DV for riboflavin, and over 2,000% of the DV for vitamin B12 (24Trusted Source).
Eggs are often referred to as nature’s multivitamin because of their impressive nutrient profile. Whole eggs are packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants needed for a healthy stress response.
Whole eggs are particularly rich in choline, a nutrient found in large amounts in only a few foods. Choline has been shown to play an important role in brain health and may protect against stress (25Trusted Source).
Animal studies note that choline supplements may aid stress response and boost mood (25Trusted Source).
Shellfish, which include mussels, clams, and oysters, are high in amino acids like taurine, which has been studied for its potential mood-boosting properties (26Trusted Source).
Taurine and other amino acids are needed to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine, which are essential for regulating stress response. In fact, studies indicate that taurine may have antidepressant effects (26Trusted Source).
Shellfish are also loaded with vitamin B12, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium, all of which may help boost mood. A study in 2,089 Japanese adults associated low intakes of zinc, copper, and manganese with depression and anxiety symptoms (27Trusted Source).
Vitamin C is involved in stress response. What’s more, high vitamin C levels are linked to elevated mood and lower levels of depression and anger. Plus, eating foods rich in this vitamin may improve overall mood (29Trusted Source, 30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source).
Although they can be enjoyed fresh, acerola cherries are highly perishable. As such, they’re most often sold as a powder, which you can add to foods and beverages.
Fatty fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, and sardines are incredibly rich in omega-3 fats and vitamin D, nutrients that have been shown to help reduce stress levels and improve mood.
Omega-3s are not only essential for brain health and mood but may also help your body handle stress. In fact, low omega-3 intake is linked to increased anxiety and depression in Western populations (32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source, 34Trusted Source).
Parsley is a nutritious herb that’s packed with antioxidants — compounds that neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals and protect against oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is associated with many illnesses, including mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Studies suggest that a diet rich in antioxidants may help prevent stress and anxiety (37Trusted Source).
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Tahini is a rich spread made from sesame seeds, which are an excellent source of the amino acid L-tryptophan.
L-tryptophan is a precursor of the mood-regulating neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Following a diet high in tryptophan may help boost mood and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety (14Trusted Source).
In a 4-day study in 25 young adults, a high tryptophan diet led to better mood, decreased anxiety, and reduced depression symptoms, compared with a diet low in this amino acid (43Trusted Source).
Sunflower seeds are a rich source of vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin acts as a powerful antioxidant and is essential for mental health.
A low intake of this nutrient is associated with altered mood and depression (44Trusted Source).
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are renowned for their health benefits. A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables may lower your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and mental health disorders like depression (46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source).
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are some of the most concentrated food sources of some nutrients — including magnesium, vitamin C, and folate — that have been proven to combat depressive symptoms (48Trusted Source).
Additionally, 1 cup (184 grams) of cooked broccoli packs over 20% of the DV for vitamin B6, a higher intake of which is tied to a lower risk of anxiety and depression in women (52Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source).
Chickpeas are packed with stress-fighting vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper.
These delicious legumes are also rich in L-tryptophan, which your body needs to produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters (54Trusted Source).
Research has found that diets rich in plant proteins like chickpeas may help boost brain health and improve mental performance (55Trusted Source).
In a study in over 9,000 people, those who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in plant foods like legumes experienced better mood and less stress than those who followed a typical Western diet rich in processed foods (56Trusted Source).
Chamomile is a medicinal herb that has been used since ancient times as a natural stress reducer. Its tea and extract have been shown to promote restful sleep and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression (57Trusted Source, 58Trusted Source).
These berries are high in flavonoid antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. They may help reduce stress-related inflammation and protect against stress-related cellular damage (62Trusted Source).
Numerous foods contain nutrients that may help you reduce stress.
Matcha powder, fatty fish, kimchi, garlic, chamomile tea, and broccoli are just a few that may help.
Try incorporating some of these foods and beverages into your diet to naturally promote stress relief.
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