The Top 8 Foods That Reduce Stress (alternatives to wine and ice cream)

Written by Joel Marion

Foods that reduce stress

With all the pressures and demands placed on us by work, family, and our many other relationships, life can get downright stressful at times.

If you have a job, a family, interact with other people, or battle with ever-changing technology or the numerous other demands on time and energy we face in today’s everyday life, you know what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy for many of us to reach for all the WRONG foods when we’re stressed. Even worse are unhealthy habits like drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes to cope with life’s challenges… all disastrous choices for health, hormones, and waistline alike.

But what if I told you that you could EAT your way to a more relaxed, calmer state, without packing on the pounds? Or even better, what if you could do it while DROPPING some of those pesky pounds as you do?!

Well, I have some good news: you CAN! As long as you know exactly which belly-slimming foods to reach for when things get a little crazy. Here are 8 of my favorite foods that reduce stress:

8 Foods That Reduce Stress

1. Oatmeal — Carbs prompt your brain to make more serotonin, your body’s “feel-good” chemical. Choosing a low glycemic index (GI) carb source that provides a steady blood sugar response, like old-fashioned oatmeal, is a healthy choice for your waistline and your stress levels as it yields a sustained supply of serotonin for a calming, soothing effect.

2. Blueberries — Packed with antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress within the body, blueberries are also rich in Vitamin C. As an added benefit, they’re also extremely low on the glycemic index, so they’re a great choice practically any time of day.

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3. Turkey — Turkey contains an amino acid called L-tryptophan, which also triggers serotonin release and a relaxed state which partly explains the well-known post-Thanksgiving stupor. Gobble gobble… time for a nap!

4. Avocados — Due to their high potassium content, avocados have been shown to help reduce stress-related high blood pressure. Believe it or not, avocados actually contain more potassium than bananas! Guacamole anyone?

5. Broccoli — Broccoli contains folic acid, a vitamin that has been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety, panic, and depression. Just another reason to enjoy this superfood regularly.

6. Salmon — Salmon and other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to have a positive effect on stress levels. For instance, a study published in Diabetes & Metabolism found that omega-3s keep the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from peaking, while another study conducted at Ohio State University showed omega-3 fatty acids to decrease anxiety by 20%!

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7. Almonds — Yum! Stress relief at its best! These little guys are packed with B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc—all of which are involved in the production of serotonin. The zinc and magnesium combination in particular has been shown to improve sleep in numerous ways. For example, one Italian study showed zinc and magnesium shortened the time it took subjects to fall asleep while improving quality of sleep and alertness the morning after.

8. Oranges — In one study, German researchers found that consuming Vitamin C helped test subjects experience reduced elevations in cortisol (your body’s #1 stress hormone) and blood pressure when subjected to a stressful environment—in this case, public speaking and math problems! (I’m glad I wasn’t a subject in this particular study!) Other foods high in Vitamin C include peppers, cantaloupe, and tomatoes, just to name a few.

Hopefully, these eight nutritious foods that reduce stress will help you redefine “stress eating” the next time you’re faced with a challenging event, person, or experience. With foods science has shown are good for your health, hormones, and waistline alike, you’ll take another step toward reaching your goals instead of sabotaging your success.

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  • Tanya Reeder

    I think this is a great list, and very good information; however, it would be responsible to point out that only wild caught salmon is going to be the kind of nutritious meal they’re talking about. Farm raised and franken-salmon are not going to be a friend to your system the way wild caught salmon will, for several reasons. Not everyone is aware of what’s going on with the salmon and could end up doing more harm than good without the necessary facts. Very good article otherwise, though. 🙂

    • Cristina

      Hi Tanya. Thank you for your feedback, and for providing us with this additional information. I think it really boils down to either locating a trusted market/supplier, who can confirm that the fish you are purchasing are precisely as marked, or catching the fish yourself.

      Unfortunately, wild caught salmon is often substituted with farm raised salmon. This is important for many reasons, one of which is the omega-3 fatty acid content. Studies have found that wild salmon has an omega-3 to omega-6 ratio on the order of 10:1 while farm raised salmon is closer to 3:1.

      This would actually still be a step in the right direction for most, but according to our Good >> Better >> Best continuum, wild salmon would be on the far right—and you’d be paying for it. What’s more, farm raised salmon are also found to be considerably higher in contaminants (e.g., PCBs, dioxins, etc.). In fact, researchers suggest that these contaminants “may reduce the net health benefits derived from the consumption of farmed salmon.”

      Our co-founders, Joel and Josh, created a free report, which is based off recommendations from a report published by Oceana, the world’s largest ocean conservation group, that found that nearly half of the fish being sold in America today are actually less expensive, potentially harmful fish that have been deliberately mislabeled as a higher quality, more sought-after fish.

      These cheaper substitutes are fed inferior food, which negatively affects their Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid content, and are frequently riddled with contaminants, toxins, and allergens, which can also cause potential health problems.

      You may access this free report here:

      4 Fish To Never Eat

      Thank you for taking the time to explore this article, Tanya.

      • Tanya Reeder

        Thank you for your reply 🙂 All this is very good information that several people are not aware of. Best to spread the word. Have a great day!

  • Karen Paul

    What about canned fish – tuna, salmon, sardines etc. and the companies that process them; ie Starkist, Bumblebee, Chicken of the Sea etc. Good or Bad?

    • Cristina

      Hi Karen. Great question! My thought process on canned fish is that provided it is from a reputable source and packed in water, as opposed to various oils, then these would be acceptable sources of Omega-3’s and protein.

      I know one of the concerns with canned fish is the levels of mercury, and the following recommendations are based on EPA guidance and estimates of mercury in the most popular canned tunas:

      Canned white, or albacore (0.32 parts per million of mercury). Children under six can eat up to one 3-ounce portion a month; children from 6–12, two 4.5-ounce portions a month. Adults, including pregnant women, can safely eat it up to three times a month (women, 6-ounce portions; men, 8-ounce portions).

      Canned light — the safer choice (0.12 parts per million of mercury). Children under six can eat up to three 3-ounce portions per month. Older children and adults can safely eat it once a week. But look out for “gourmet” or “tonno” labels. They are made with bigger yellowfin tuna and can contain mercury levels comparable to canned white.

      With regards to sardines, a 3 ounce portion of sardines has 21 grams of protein and more than 1,000 mg of Omega-3’s.

      Another option that you mentioned is canned salmon (mostly sockeye or pink from Alaska), which is low in contaminants and high in heart-healthy omega-3s. It’s also sustainably caught in Alaska and similarly priced, making it a great choice all around.

      These are all mild in flavor, so if you are like me and desire to jazz them up, you could do so with some mayo, salt and pepper. A healthier option would be mustard, as opposed to mayonnaise. I also like to add chopped pickles to my canned fish to give it a crunch. I have been known to add onion and celery as well.

      I hope this helps, Karen. We would love for you to share any recipes you may have, as well.