How to relieve stress with the right food

How to relieve stress with the right food

The word “stress” is on the menu almost every day. Whether you´re experiencing it or you´re hearing about it from someone close to you, it is always there, waiting to kick in. In 2013, 60% of Slovaks claimed they suffered from work-related stress. Compared to USA, where the number goes high up to 80%, we can still say we´re on the safe side, but are we, really?

Considering majority of us go to work every day, this statistics may have also been exploring long-term stress which is much more serious than its individual occurrences. When suffering from long-term stress, one can develop a whole lot of seemingly unrelated diseases such as autoimmune diseases (allergies, alopecia, rheumatoid arthritis etc.), thyroid problems, and overall impairment of immune system eventually leading to frequent colds and inflammations.

If a person is mentally strong and doesn´t let the stress get to him/her, they can actually benefit from it. A lot of us know this feeling when a deadline is approaching and you´re not sure if you´re going to be able to meet it, then you start working like crazy, and eventually do a great job. If the case repeats too often though, and if you drink half a liter coffee during this “nightshift” and subsequently sleep for just about 2 hours, you may be doing much more harm to your body than you realize.

Now, how can we relieve stress and prevent it from harming us from inside out by eating right?

Leafy greens

Leafy green vegetables contain folate, also known as folic acid or vitamin B9, which produces dopamine – one of the happy hormones, and calms you down. A 2012 study from Journal of Affective Disorders suggests that folate reduces risk of depression and other mental disorders. Moreover, the leafy greens like spinach is easily available in stores in every season from fresh to frozen and can be used in salads or as a side dish. Dark leafy greens have alkaline pH so they don´t burden the organism and it can focus on fighting viruses and protecting us.

Protein-rich foods

Amino-acid tryptophan contained in protein-rich foods such as turkey (breasts), fish, nuts & seeds, eggs, and legumes helps produce serotonin – another happy hormone which keeps us calm and satisfied. What´s more, protein in these foods keeps blood sugar levels stable, and thus boosts the energy and prevents us from overeating. On the other hand, there are types of people who lose their appetites when stressed so to keep going, the body has to turn to fat, and more importantly muscle to break down as a source of energy. In this case, eating protein-rich foods is absolutely vital.


Omega 3 fatty acids have been proven to have a positive effect on our bodies in many ways and one of them is our emotional well-being and stress relief. A study from Brain Behavior and Immunity concluded a 20% reduction in anxiety amongst medical students taking omega-3 supplement and claims that omega-3 fatty acids “work just as well as antidepressants… but without any of the side effects.” Good sources of omega-3s are fatty fish, especially salmon, shrimp, flax seeds, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, or cauliflower. Important though is, that our body is more efficient in using the omega-3s from animal products so if you´re stressed and fish are not available, you can very well just take a pill.


Especially blueberries contain antioxidants and phytonutrients which are capable of fighting free radicals brought on by stress. It has also been shown that eating blueberries increases the number of natural “killer-cells” and thus improves our immune system´s function. Then, anthocyanins, a type of antioxidants purple berries contain, help produce dopamine and thus improve our memory in times of stress and raise our mood.

Coffee vs. tea

Morning coffee can be a good start of the day because it helps release BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and consequently produces new neurons so in the end, it keeps your brain healthy and decreases risk of depression. However, if you´re already stressed and keep on drinking coffee, it may actually dangerously increase your blood pressure, keep you distracted and boost cortisol, a stress hormone, which will make you feel even worse.

To relieve stress, it is recommended to drink up to 6 cups of tea - oolong tea containing gamma-aminobutyric acid reducing anxiety or green tea which lowers blood pressure and thus naturally relieves stress. Drinking so many fluids also makes us full so for those who overeat when stressed it is a great way to deal with it. Another thing is, holding a mug in hand all day will give you something to transfer the anxiety to so you will be able to focus better.

by Katarína Vicová

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Lorenzen, R. (2015). [picture]. New business? Don´t stress about which outlets give you press. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-lorenzen/new-business-dont-stress-_b_7982910.html
Mercola (2014). How to manage stress with the right foods. Retrieved from: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/05/15/stress-management-foods.aspx
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