Eat These Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

May 16, 2022

The providers and nutritionists at Pandya Medical Center are able to help you tailor your meal to include foods that work to lower stress levels. 

During periods of stress, your body releases cortisol which gives your body the energy you need to respond to a short-term stressful scenario.

However, prolonged elevated cortisol levels caused by prolonged stress can be deleterious to health and result in sustained elevations of blood sugar, loss of calcium from bones, depression of important immune responses, high blood pressure, loss of muscle mass, increased fat accumulation, and even loss of cognitive function— essentially, the opposite of all the good things it does for you in short-term scenarios. 

If you think you may suffer from unhealthy levels of cortisol, the providers at Pandya Medical Center can order lab tests to determine your levels and talk to you about treatment strategies to optimize them.

Simple foods to include in your diet that are known to be stress-relieving foods: In general, this means fewer processed foods and more whole foods. Included below are a few suggestions of foods that help combat stress by lowering your cortisol. 

1. Foods high in vitamin B’s like fortified whole grains and some animal proteins have lots of B vitamins in them — particularly vitamin B12, which can help with the metabolism of cortisol.

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Organ meats
  • Chicken
  • Eggs

(Physician Recommendation: cst=custom) 

2. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids work to reduce inflammation.

  • Anchovies
  • Avocados
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax seeds
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Olive oil
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • Walnuts

(Physician Recommendation:

3. Magnesium-rich foods reduce inflammation, aid in metabolizing cortisol and relaxation:

  • Avocados
  • Coconut water
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Dark chocolate
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Leafy greens – such as kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, and mustard
  • greens.

(Physician Recommendation:

4. Protein-rich foods that promote balanced blood sugar levels:

  • Eggs
  • Lean Beef, Chicken, Turkey breast
  • Lentils
  • Nuts
  • Quinoa
  • Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp.

5. Gut-healthy foods, probiotic-rich and fermented foods can help balance blood sugar and
reduce cholesterol:

  • Greek yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut

(Physician Recommendation:

6. Chamomile: Chamomile is often used to relieve stress-induced symptoms such as insomnia and gastrointestinal disorders. It is most commonly available in tea.

7. Vitamin C: Vitamin C also helps with stress. Consuming foods high in vitamin C can reduce stress and boost the immune system. Vitamin C can help lower the levels of cortisol and blood pressure during high-anxiety situations. Foods rich in Vitamin C are:

  • Oranges and other citrus fruits like Kiwi, lemon, grapefruit
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower)

If you need to de-stress in a hurry

Magnesium-rich foods are a good choice if you’re trying to unwind and want a little natural assistance. Magnesium helps to relax the body, which helps reduce stress. It is an important mineral for supporting vital body functions such as maintaining a stable heart rhythm and blood pressure, developing strong bones, and helping decrease the risk of chronic disease. 

In a pinch, try popping some pumpkin seeds or letting some dark chocolate melt in your mouth (just make sure it’s at least 90% cacao) or drink chamomile tea.

Foods to avoid

In contrast, some foods raise cortisol levels. Foods that cause stress on your body include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • High-sugar foods
  • Simple carbs (cakes and pastries)
  • Soda 

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