Ten foods to help reduce stress

Thursday, June 11th, 2020 00:00 |
Stressful lady. Photo/File

During this period when we are battling the effects of Covid-19 including loss of income, change in routines and anxiety about our health, stress is unavoidable. Research shows that good nutrition can help reduce stress by lowering the stress hormone, cortisol. As part of self-care, Evelyn Makena outlines foods to fill your plate to help you feel less frazzled. 


These leafy greens are packed with magnesium, a nutrient that helps in bringing a calming effect to the nervous system.

Stress can lead to tightening of muscles, difficulties in sleeping and rise in blood pressure.

Spinach. Photo/Courtesy

Eating foods high in magnesium such as spinach and other leafy greens can fight anxiety and lower stress levels.

Low level of magnesium in the body is one of the factors that can lead to mental health conditions such as depression.


For starters, when these fruits are ripe, they have a rich orange colour, which is visibly attractive and uplifting.

Apart from their energetic colour, oranges and other citrus fruits contain myo-inositol a naturally occurring form of B Vitamin that helps to boost emotional health and improve mood.

Oranges. Photo/Courtesy

Oranges are also rich in Vitamin C, which lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, reduces the blood pressure and boosts the immunity.

Research shows that high level of Vitamin C is effective in fighting physical and mental stress.


Oats contain complex carbohydrates and eating them can improve mood. The cereal enhances the production of serotonin, a chemical responsible for regulating mood.

Stress can cause the body to have cravings for sugar and other processed foods. Instead of consuming sugary food for the quick pick me up feeling, eating complex carbohydrates in oats work better in maintaining stability of the blood sugar and regulate mood. 

Dark chocolate

Biting on a bar of dark chocolate might be effective in regulating your stress levels. Eating chocolate enhances the feel good effects.

Dark chocolate. Photo/Courtesy

The cocoa in dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants that trigger the blood vessels to relax, improves circulation and lowers the blood pressure.

Cocoa also contains stimulants similar to caffeine thus making it effective in improving brain function in the short term.

Chocolate with higher cocoa content is more effective in giving these benefits.


Egg yorks are rich in vitamin D. The nutrient helps in reducing fatigue and feelings of anxiety and stress.

They are also packed with proteins thus have amino acids that the body needs for growth and development.

Eggs. Photo/Courtesy

Eggs also contain chemicals that act as neurotransmitter to the brain and can regulate mood making it easier to manage stress. 

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkins seeds are great sources of magnesium and potassium. Eating foods rich in magnesium can help regulate emotions.

The nutrient also helps alleviate depression, fatigue and irritability. Potassium on the other hand helps manage blood pressure, and relieve symptoms of anxiety.

Like pumpkin seeds, bananas are also rich in potassium. Pumpkins are also a good source of zinc, a mineral that is essential in brain development and improving mental health. 


Fatty fish such as salmon and trout contain high amounts of omega 3. Omega 3 fatty acids combat the stress causing hormone cortisol that is also related with extra belly fat.

Fried fish. Photo/Courtesy

The fatty acids are important in boosting cognitive function and improving mental health. Omega 3 helps reduce anxiety and depression and improve the response to stress.


You have probably heard about the close relationship between the brain and the gut.

There are numerous nerves and neurons linking the brain to the gut enhancing communication between the two.

Thus bacteria in the gut can either contribute or alleviate stress. Yoghurt contains good bacteria that’s good for the gut and beneficial to brain health. 


This yellow spice has an active ingredient known as curcumin that may help lower anxiety and reduce oxidative stress for people with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.


Curcumin also has anti-inflammatory properties guarding the body against weight gain and disease caused by inflammation.

Curcumin, stimulates production of feel-good hormones dopamine and serotonin thus improving mood.

Green tea

Sipping on a cup of green tea is a good stress relief. Green tea contains the active ingredient L-theanine an amino acid with stress relieving capabilities.

Due to the low caffeine it contains, green tea relaxes the mind without giving the dizziness that drinking coffee causes.

Green tea is also loaded with antioxidants that help in improve brain function.

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