by Jon Lewis of Lewis & Feldman

Stress is probably an unwanted ingredient in your life, whether it’s a family situation, the political environment or concerns in your career. Could what you eat contribute to stress? Could your meals alleviate stress? While they may not be 100 percent the cause or cure, the answer is a resounding yes!

You can probably guess which foods are more likely to be stress-inducing or stress-relieving. Stress-inducing foods include coffee, alcohol, refined sugars and processed foods. These are the same foods that lead to weight gain and disease. On the stress-relieving menu, you will find foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, cereals and low-fat meats. Let’s look at these and some of the science behind them.


Blueberries – Often referred to as one of the superfoods, blueberries are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. Our brains use vitamin C to help convert tryptophan into serotonin. Serotonin is a mood stabilizer. Adequate serotonin makes you feel happier, calmer, more focused and less anxious. Kiwis, strawberries, papaya, oranges, grapefruit and guava can also be good sources of vitamin C, which can help reduce stress.

Avocados – Yes, these are considered fruits. High in vitamin B, avocados can fight vitamin B deficiencies which research links to anxiety. Also, avocados’ potassium and monounsaturated fat content help lower blood pressure.


Spinach – Spinach is loaded with magnesium which can help reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, stress and stress-related foods can lower the magnesium levels in the body. Alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages and sugars all lower the body’s magnesium levels, so it’s good to have a side of spinach to counterbalance those stress-inducing foods. One cup of spinach gives the body forty percent of its daily magnesium needs.

Red Pepper – Red peppers have almost twice the amount of vitamin C as oranges. Again, vitamin C helps increase serotonin levels, so add some red peppers to your salad and meals.

Asparagus – One cup of asparagus provides 66 percent of your daily folic acid needs. Why is that important? Folic acid is a known depression buster. When you are less depressed, you are less anxious and stressed.


Salmon – Already well known for its health benefits, salmon is filled with omega-3 fatty acids that help keep adrenaline from getting out of hand. JAMA Network Open found that omega-3 fatty acids can also reduce anxiety, based on 19 studies of 1,200 people.

Shrimp and Lobster – These two ocean dwellers have omega-3s and tryptophan, so they can help reduce those stress levels while you’re having fun at the beach.

Nuts And Cereals

Almonds – Loaded with vitamin B, almonds help with our fight-or-flight stress responses. They can also help bolster the immune system during times of stress. Nuts such as pistachios also have potassium which can help lower blood pressure.

Oatmeal – Not the instant kind. The thick-cut and longer-cooking oatmeal is another food that helps our bodies make serotonin. In addition, the fiber in oatmeal takes longer to digest. So, while it is a carb, it’s more complex than white breads and pastas and won’t spike blood sugar.

Low-Fat Meats

Turkey – Essentially, turkey helps the brain produce serotonin. It has the amino acid tryptophan, which creates that sleepy feeling at Thanksgiving. What’s more stress-relieving than sleep?

While these aren’t the only stress-relieving foods, including them in your diet regularly will probably help lower your stress levels. Other good foods to consider are teas, herbs, milk and dark chocolate. Of course, always consult a doctor before changing your diet dramatically to ensure it is right for you.