Stress is sickening, literally. We all know that ongoing stress can lead to anxiety and depression, but did you know that there are foods that beat stress? 

The truth is that stress affects our entire body. And science now tells us it can even weaken our immune system and shorten our life. We all deal with some levels of stress, right? It’s normal. But a recent survey done in 2022 by the American Psychological Association reported that three-quarters of adults say their stress levels are up. So what can we do about it? Certainly, taking steps to manage stress holistically should be a priority. But let’s talk about the foods that can beat stress.

The first thing we need to understand is the role of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone released by our adrenal glands when we’re experiencing stress. A small amount of stress is good- it has a protective mechanism for our bodies. Over the long run, high cortisol levels in the body create stress. Lowering inflammation helps to lower cortisol levels. To reduce cortisol levels and beat stress, we’ve got to eat foods that lower inflammation. 

What NOT to eat

Job number one is to avoid or remove foods that create inflammation. That means limiting (or eliminating) alcohol and foods with high amounts of added sugars. This includes cookies, sweets, pastries, and fast foods.

Here are four foods to beat stress.


High-Protein Foods at ALL Meals

Focus on high-protein foodsStudies have shown that protein increases positive mood and dampens the cortisol response to acute stress. Make eating lean chicken, beef, and eggs a priority every time you eat- for snacks AND meals


Get Lots of B12

Taking in adequate amounts of Vitamin B12 can also help with reducing stress. B12 promotes healthy nervous system function. When the nervous system functions correctly, the adrenal glands do not secrete as much cortisol. Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal meat, fish, eggs, and dairy


Incorporate Seeds for Omega-3s

Eat foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids will reduce inflammation and (and provide many other health benefits!). One way omega-3s reduce inflammation is through changes in the types and amounts of microorganisms that live in the gut, called the gut microbiota. A growing body of research suggests that a well-balanced gut microbiome can improve mood and reduce everyday stressors. Zone in on seeds, specifically flax seeds and chia seeds. These are high-value omega-3 fatty acids type foods that are easy to eat. Add, blend, or bake with them, incorporating seeds into oatmeal, smoothies, and salads. You get the biggest big bang for your buck with flax and chia seeds!


Magnesium for Short-Term Stress

Look for high-magnesium foods. Specifically, eat pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate. Who doesn’t want dark chocolate in their day, right? In the short term, these high-magnesium foods can be an effective treatment for handling stress.

Curious about how much protein to eat? Check out these tips on protein intake.