Eat Your Way to Stress Relief

Now that summer is in full force, we can find ourselves getting a little stressed out. The days are getting shorter, the work is getting loaded on, and with the warmer weather looming ahead, sometimes we just aren’t as motivated as we are in the winter time.

Studies have shown that some foods help us feel more calm… while other foods can act as stimulants.

The good news? Making some modifications to your diet may help.

To help clear this up, here are a list of 10 foods that you’ll want to be in the know about it. The first five eat up: they’re there to help boost your mood. The second five slow down: they can increase stress and promote depression.

Eat These

Tryptophan-Rich Foods

You know when you snooze after that Thanksgiving dinner? That’s because turkey is rich in tryptophan, which researchers has pinpointed as a positive effect on stress. Tryptophan leads to the excretion of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps you feel calm. It’s not just in turkey. Tryptophan is also found in chicken, cheese, soy, bananas, milk, oats, nuts, peanut butter, and sesame seeds.

Whole Grains

Ever met someone on a low-carb diet and they seem to be a little… snappy? That’s because carbohydrates also increase production of serotonin in the brain. Whole grain varieties are the best bet for your health over processed choices such as white bread or sugar-filled treats. Whole grains take longer for the body to break down, and release sugar into the much more slowly into the bloodstream than their refined counterparts. These refined, processed carbohydrates deliver quick energy followed by a slump when the blood sugar levels drop rapidly.

Foods High in Vitamin B

Research has shown that a deficiency in B vitamins such as folic acid and B12 can trigger depression in some individuals. Other studies have shown a relationship between the B vitamins, including thiamin or vitamin B1, and similar mood disorders. Meat, such as beef, pork, and chicken are well-known sources of vitamin B, though leafy greens, legumes, citrus fruits, rice, nuts, and eggs all are good sources, too.


Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) is further linked to depression and mood. Though the best sources are found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, lake trout, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines, other options include omega-enriched eggs, as well as flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, and chia seeds. Studies have shown that clinically depressed individuals who supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids along with their prescription antidepressants improved more than those who took antidepressants alone.

High Protein Foods

Protein is an important macronutrient that helps stimulate the production of the brain chemicals norepinephrine and dopamine. Similar to serotonin, these neurotransmitters  carry impulses between nerve cells. When the body has higher levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, it also has have improved alertness, mental energy, and reaction time. Good sources of protein include yogurt, fish, meats, cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, soy, and lentils. For best results, choose options that have a combination of carbohydrates and protein, such as legumes.

Don’t Eat These

Too Much Sugar

Unlike whole grains, sugar is a source of refined carbohydrate that is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. This causes an initial high or surge of energy, but soon wears off and leaves you feeling tired and run-down.

Caffeinated Drinks and Foods

Though caffeinated beverages and foods can boost energy levels, they’ve also been shown to inhibit levels of serotonin in the brain. This, in turn, can make us feel depressed. Caffeine is also a diuretic, and mild dehydration can cause depression. Caffeine also can keep you awake, leading to stress and anxiety. Cola, coffee, and tea are the most popular of caffeinated beverages, but bear in mind that chocolate and cocoa pack a punch, too.


Did you know that alcohol is a depressant? No matter how good you feel when you’re drinking it,  alcohol is a diuretic, and can bring you down as quickly as it brought you up. If you do choose to drink, go moderately, and opt to eat while dining, which helps absorb it more slowly into the bloodstream.

Overly Processed Foods

Processed foods such as hot dogs and deli-meat, along with lard and sugar laden desserts, have been linked to depression. In a study, people who mainly ate processed food, along with high-fat dairy products, and sweetened desserts had a 58 percent higher risk of depression than those who ate a diet rich in fresh, whole foods.

Too Much of Anything

Becoming a glutton will slow you down, whether you’re eating a salad or a cake. Be sure to eat in moderation for the best health benefits, choosing healthful options over others.


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