Bright and juicy picture with orange eggs and red capsicum. The eggs are on a plate, next to the plate there is a fork.

5 foods to eat to help you feel less stressed

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A whole lot of things can help you dial down your stress levels, including what you choose to eat. Find out which foods to have on hand when you need to feel less frazzled.

The link between foods for stress

Getting a good night’s sleep, doing a spot of exercise  and spending some time in nature are all effective scientifically proven stress-less strategies. But what you do – and don’t – eat and drink can play a role, too. 

Broadly speaking, foods that are good for gut health are good for your stress levels as well, with research suggesting a link between both prebiotics and probiotics  and stressing less. 

While naturally fermented foods like yoghurt and sauerkraut contain probiotics , prebiotic-rich foods include garlic, asparagus, legumes, oats and pistachio nuts.

5 foods for stress

If you’re looking for some other specific things to eat and drink to help feel less stressed, you could start with including one, or all of the following foods as part of a healthy balanced diet.

1. Dark chocolate

Eat a small piece of dark chocolate every day and after two weeks you’ll have lower levels of stress hormones circulating in your body. That’s according to an American study, which found that a 40g daily serve is enough to do the trick.

 

Vegan chocolate cake with raspberries, sliced on a white plate

D-stress with a slice of vegan chocolate cake from Law Raw Treats. Photo: Kate Ferguson

2. Eggs

Eggs contain six of the eight B vitamins that are beneficial in the fight against stress. An Australian study found that boosting vitamin B intake reduces stress levels by nearly 20 per cent, thanks to the way the vitamins encourage the production of neurotransmitters that are critical to psychological wellbeing.

For the biggest benefit, choose free-range eggs instead of the caged variety, as they contain larger amounts of key vitamins.

 

Crispy fried turmeric egg with quinoa

Soothe your soul with a plate of fried quinoa with crispy turmeric egg. Photo: Roberta Nelson

3. Tea

As long as it’s black tea – something like English breakfast or an Earl Grey  – and you drink it regularly, you may be able to de-stress more quickly when you encounter a stressful event.

Putting the theory to the test, UK researchers found that people who drank four cups of tea a day for six weeks had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their blood when they were put under pressure .

4. Whole grains

This includes things like brown rice, quinoa and dark ‘seedy’ breads . As well as being a good source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that the body converts into a feel-good hormone called serotonin , whole grains also deliver a hit of carbohydrate .

And far from being something to ‘quit’ like a lot of fad diets call for, a 2019 study proved that dietary carbohydrates help to lower cortisol levels.

 

Chicken fajita bowls with brown rice an easy meal prep lunch

With capsicum and brown rice these chicken fajita bowls are the perfect stress less lunch. Photo: Rachel Scoular

5. Capsicum

Capsicums are an excellent source of vitamin C , another nutrient that’s been identified as having a key role in protecting against stress-related problems.

Any colour capsicum will do the trick, but red types – which are simply more ripe than green and yellow ones  – tend to contain the most vitamin C.

Stress and appetite

Knowing what you should eat to tame your stress levels is one thing – making it happen can be slightly more challenging. 

Stress can make higher-fat, higher-sugar ‘comfort foods’ seem like the obvious choice. 

Research shows that’s down to the way those foods work to help suppress the release of cortisol – so in many ways, it’s the body’s natural reaction to gravitate towards them during stressful situations. It’s just one of the reasons why stress can lead to weight gain.  

But it’s also counterproductive. Not only can eating a higher-fat diet raise levels of perceived, if not genuine, stress , eating sugar-rich foods leads to feeling more tired and less alert  – just what you don’t need when you’re already under pressure. 

So bear in mind that when you’re stressed, it may make it harder than usual to make healthy choices. 

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