Foods That Help Us Manage And Recover From Chronic Stress


When we are stressed, and maybe coping with symptoms of anxiety, OCD, or other mental health disorder, eating well can become a challenge. Yet, eating nutritious food is exactly what we need.

By minimizing our intake of processed foods, and consuming a variety of whole foods rich in vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and minerals we can help ourselves recover from the effects of stress.

Foods That Calm

Certain foods are especially helpful for calming the consequences of chronic stress, such as:

  • Leafy Greens. Eating leafy greens provides us with numerous phytonutrients and antioxidants, including magnesium and B vitamins.
  • The B vitamins facilitate optimal nerve and brain function. A lack of B vitamins may be a factor in some mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.
  • Magnesium supports the body’s stress regulating functions. A lack of it in our diet is associated with irritability, anxiety, sleep issues, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Beside leafy greens, good sources of magnesium are nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, whole grains, bananas, and dark chocolate.
  • Walnuts. Our nervous system loves omega-3 fatty acids because healthy fats calm the effects of stress hormones such as adrenaline, and cortisol. Research suggests that getting plenty of omega-3s in our diet can reduce anxiety and stress levels.
  • Walnuts contain an abundance of omega-3s, as does fatty fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel), chia seeds, flaxseed oil, spinach, wheat germ, olive oil, and grass-fed beef.
  • Berries. Chronic stress contributes to the formation of free radicals in our body. Free radicals are waste products that can bind to cells and damage their proteins, DNA, and other cell components.
  • Antioxidants are food nutrients that neutralize harmful free radicals. One powerful type of antioxidant, anthocyanins, is abundant in the pigments of blue and red colored berries, such as blueberries, and strawberries.
  • Berries, and many other fruits, are also rich sources of vitamin C, another strong antioxidant. Vitamin C helps maintain our hormonal balance - so important for mood regulation - and is necessary for proper immune system functioning.
  • Avocado. Like walnuts, avocados contain omega-3s and other healthy fats. Avocados also have glutathione (pronounced gloota-THIGH-own), a mighty antioxidant for preventing free radical damage. Glutathione is “the mother of all antioxidants, the master detoxifier, and maestro of the immune system,” wrote Dr. Mark Hyman in a Huffpost article.
  • We also get glutathione by eating cruciferous veggies, such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, collards, and cauliflower.
  • Cashews. Beside protein and healthy fats, cashews are rich in zinc, an essential mineral that physical and emotional stress can deplete. Zinc deficiencies are associated with stress response disruption, irritability, and depressive symptoms.
  • Others foods high in zinc are seafood (e.g., crab, lobster, cooked oysters), wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds, chicken, and cocoa powder.

Just from these examples it’s easy to see that what we eat profoundly affects our body’s response to, and recovery from stress. It’s not easy though, to shop or prepare meals if we’re dealing with severe stress, or distressing psychiatric symptoms.

Fortunately, we can always start small, by getting just one or two more leafy green servings in our weekly diet, or by snacking on seeds and nuts more often. Small, consistent actions can yield substantial results.

Source: Jennifer Weinberg/Chorpa; HealthAliciousNess; NCBI; Huffington Post; NCBI
Photo credit: Janine

ocd self test
Do you or a loved one feel like you might have a problem with OCD? Take the Self Test now to get more information.

The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Click here to read our complete Terms of Use.

Susbscribe to our free newsletter for information & inspiration

Email Social