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Healthy Food for Stress Relief: 5 Foods You Should Eat

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Dec 28, 2020

Healthy Food for Stress Relief: 5 Foods You Should Eat

Is there healthy food for stress relief? Oftentimes, when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed we turn to comfort food. Unfortunately, these are not always the best food for good health. Potato chips, ice cream, and sweet chocolate may satisfy your cravings at first but leave you feeling guilty and sluggish afterward. In turn, this can lead to more stress on your mind and body. Aside from proper snacking, it is important to maintain a balanced diet for optimal health.

Top 5 Healthy Food for Stress Relief

#1: Tea

After coffee and water, tea is one of the most consumed beverages in the world. There are many varieties of tea and infusions that offer different health benefits. It is important to note that tea refers to infusions that contain actual tea leaves, while herbal infusions contain flowers, roots, or leaves of other plants.

Tea is a good source of caffeine and antioxidants. It can give you a much needed pick me up while offering mental clarity. However, we would like to stress that too much caffeine can backfire on you. A caffeine rush can make you jittery, anxious, and worsen your stress levels. Avoid drinking strong tea in the evening and opt for herbal teas instead.

Herbal teas usually do not contain caffeine, but offer other health benefits depending on what plant is used. A popular herbal tea option is chamomile, which is made from a flower similar to daisies and sunflowers. The active ingredients in chamomile include terpenoids and flavonoids. These help reduce inflammation, promote calmness, and improve sleep quality. In addition, chamomile can help with skin health and bring out your natural glow.

#2: Chocolate

healthy food for stress relief

While it was previously mentioned that sweet chocolate is one of the snacks you should avoid while stressed, dark chocolate is an alternative. Dark chocolate contains more cocoa (at least 70%), which is what gives chocolate its distinct flavor and color. Although bitter, dark chocolate is chock-full of health benefits.

What makes cocoa so healthy? It is the amount of flavonols it contains. Flavonols have positive effects on the cardiovascular system and insulin sensitivity. This means it is good for people with hypertension and diabetes. Chocolate also contains a bit of caffeine and tyramine which can wake you up and improve your mood. So, next time you crave for a chocolate bar, try taking a bite of dark chocolate instead.

#3: Nuts

When we become stressed, hormones like adrenaline and cortisol surge. These are essential for the survival response in emergencies, however, chronic stress is bad for the body. Too much stress can lead to increased abdominal fat, hypertension, and mental health issues.

Another healthy food for stress relief are nuts. Regardless of stress, nuts are a good source of non-animal protein, omega-3, and fiber. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in certain fish and nuts, offer health benefits on the heart and help regulate hormones.

Tree nuts like pecans, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are good options. While peanuts are technically legumes, they still include the health benefits of nuts. Stick with dry-roasted instead of fried, salted, or sugar-coated nuts to avoid making them unhealthy.

#4: Ginseng

Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a root plant that is endemic to the cooler areas of China, Korea, and parts of Russia. Ginseng is an emerging natural option for relieving stress and boosting energy. It has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for centuries and it is now common to see ginseng added to energy drinks and supplements.

Studies show that ginseng helps with stress by modulating the immune system response and regulating hormones. In this way, it maintains homeostasis or balance in the body. Ginseng is helpful for relieving stress and easing anxiety. You can find ginseng tea, powder, and supplements in the herbal tea section of the grocery store or in specialty shops that offer Asian medicines.

#5: Oranges

Because of their high vitamin C content, citrus fruit like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits are full of antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent and undo the damage done by free radicals. These free radicals are byproducts of metabolism which stress speeds up.

The refreshing taste and scent of oranges can also help ease stress. Essential oils from oranges are often included in candles and used in aromatherapy. Studies done on orange oil have shown that it’s effective for relieving stress, anxiety, and even improve healing time.

Eating fresh oranges, using orange marmalade, or drinking tea with orange rinds can offer these health benefits.

Does Milk Tea Have Any Health Benefits?

Bonus: Water!

While water is not really considered a “snack,’ it is an essential part of our diet. Sipping a cool glass of water can perk you up and help you chill out. There is a myth that the brain sometimes confuses feelings of thirst with hunger. While there are no studies that support the connection between the two, there is a relationship between stomach volume and satiation.

When the stomach is full, the pressure inside increases. Pressure receptors around the stomach detect the amount of stretch after food, water, or even air fills the stomach. If the stomach is too full, you are less likely to feel hungry and therefore stop cravings. Another benefit of water is that it is calorie-free, so you can drink it without guilt.

Key takeaways

Whether we like it or not, stress is a part of our lives. Instead of turning to bad junk food every time you feel stressed, try some of these healthy foods for stress relief. If you experience high levels of stress on a daily basis, you may want to consult with a doctor to check if you have any underlying health conditions.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Dec 28, 2020

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