13 Recipes to Help Reduce Stress

BY Lora O’Brien TIMEJune 17, 2022 PRINT

At some point or other, I think we’ve all had that feeling of overwhelming stress – the one where your heart is pounding too fast too much, you can’t seem to think straight or breathe properly, and frankly, you just look knackered. But guys, chill. It’s been proven that stress and nutrition basically go hand in hand. Someone living a healthy life and enjoying a balanced diet is far less likely to be stressed out than someone with a poor diet, so what we may need to do is introduce ways of relieving stress through food.

It’s also good to be aware of foods that can cause stress.  Yes, really: tea, coffee and energy drinks seem to be obvious places to start. Why? According to, these foods cause contain neuro-stimulators like caffeine and theo-bromine, which are proven to heighten stress. Stress makes you anxious – further stimulation can heighten this anxiety and even cause insomnia. Junky ‘comfort foods’ like burgers, pizza, or fried snacks are where many of us turn when we’re feeling stressed or are too busy to cook, but eating these creates a vicious circle: they usually contain high levels of protein, fats and carbohydrates that don’t contain vital minerals and vitamins, which can induce stress.

Reducing stress is all about a balance of the correct vitamins and minerals, so it’s highly recommended to avoid all fast foods and takeaways.The good news is that there are SO many tasty, delicious and enjoyable foods out there that are not only good for you, but will allow you to reduce stress.

10 Best Foods to Eat for Stress


According to our health guru, Dr Joseph Mercola, there’s a whole science of chemistry behind why these foods will help reduce your stress levels:

1. Green Leafy Vegetables


Dark leafy greens like spinach are rich in folate, which helps your body produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine. One 2012 study found people who consumed the most folate had a lower risk of depression than those who ate the least.

Not to mention, research from the University of Otago found eating fruits and vegetables of any sort (except fruit juice and dried fruit) helped young adults calm their nerves. Department of Psychology researcher Dr. Tamlin Conner said:

“On days when people ate more fruits and vegetables, they reported feeling calmer, happier, and more energetic than they normally did.”

Try: Broccoli, Avocado & Lime Salad

The perfect salad for Green Goddesses, this recipe by Deliciously Ella packs in so much goodness, it’s almost ridiculous. And what’s more is that it tastes great, too. No longer do salads dredge up imagery of wilted lettuce leaves with a few sorrowful tomatoes thrown into the mix. Salad aren’t a diet fad; they can be wholesome and nourishing whilst packing a lot of flavour.

Get the recipe here.


2. Organic Turkey Breast or Nuts


According to the good Dr Mercola, turkey is a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid (protein building block) that your body converts into serotonin. Research shows that argumentative people who consumed tryptophan become markedly more pleasant, with researchers noting:

“Tryptophan significantly decreased quarrelsome behaviors and increased agreeable behaviors and perceptions of agreeableness.”

Free-range organic eggs are also rich sources of tryptophan. Vegan? Pumpkin seeds and nuts are a great source, too.

Try: Classic Nut Loaf

Eating nuts doesn’t just mean picking from the nut bowl. You can get the goodness of nuts in a hot meal, too.

Get the recipe here.

Try: Seedy Granola Bars

Like to spend time with seedy bars? (heh heh) These are as seedy as they get! Perfect for breakfasts or lunch boxes, they’re easy to make, too.

Get the recipe here.


3. Fermented Foods


The secret to improving your mental health is in your gut, as unhealthy gut flora can have a detrimental impact your brain health, leading to issues like anxiety and depression. Beneficial bacteria have a direct effect on brain chemistry, transmitting mood- and behavior-regulating signals to your brain via your vagus nerve.

For instance, the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus was found to have a marked effect on GABA levels in certain brain regions and lowered the stress-induced hormone corticosterone, resulting in reduced anxiety- and depression-related behavior.

Women who regularly ate yogurt containing beneficial bacteria had improved brain function compared to those who did not consume probiotics.  Specifically, they had decreased activity in two brain regions that control central processing of emotion and sensation:

  • The insular cortex (insula), which plays a role in functions typically linked to emotion (including perception, motor control, self-awareness, cognitive functioning, and interpersonal experience) and the regulation of your body’s homeostasis
  • The somatosensory cortex, which plays a role in your body’s ability to interpret a wide variety of sensations

The fact that this study showed any improvement at all is remarkable, considering they used commercial yogurt preparations that are notoriously unhealthy — loaded with artificial sweeteners, colors, flavorings, and sugar. Most importantly, the vast majority of commercial yogurts have clinically insignificant levels of beneficial bacteria.

Clearly, you would be far better off making your own yogurt from raw milk or eating other fermented foods, like fermented vegetables, to support your gut health and mood.

As explained by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, a medical doctor with a postgraduate degree in Neurology, toxicity in your gut can flow throughout your body and into your brain, where it can cause symptoms of poor mood, autism, ADHD, depression, schizophrenia, and a whole host of other mental and behavioral disorders.

With this in mind, it should be crystal clear that nourishing your gut flora (by eating fermented foods and avoiding processed foods and sugar) is extremely important to support a positive mood.

Try: Vegan Ruben Sandwich

It’s a New York classic sarnie, but without the traditional corned beef. Just as (actually, more!) delicious though.

Get the recipe here.

Try: Homemade Non-Dairy Yogurt

Luckily, with the rise of veganism, there are plenty of dairy free yogurts with probiotics in the supermarkets today. But what beats homemade? Custom-make the recipe by adding your favourite fruits or nuts for added yum factor!

Get the recipe here.


4. Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon


Vegans may not want to hear it, but according to Dr Mercola, salmon, sardines, and anchovies are full of  animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, which play a role in your emotional well-being. There are a number of vendors, like Vital Choice, that have documented radiation free salmon.

One study in Brain Behavior and Immunity showed a dramatic 20 percent reduction in anxiety among medical students taking omega-3,  while past research has shown omega-3 fats work just as well as antidepressants in preventing the signs of depression, but without any of the side effects. Sadly, there are no veggie based substitutes for this omega essential.

Try: Baked Salmon

The trick to getting salmon beautifully cooked is not to ever over cook it! Pay attention to the cooking time here, and you’re sure to make a fancy family favourite.

Get the recipe here.


5. Blueberries


Anthocyanins are the pigments that give berries like blueberries and blackberries their deep color. These antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine, a chemical that is critical to coordination, memory function, and your mood. Also, as TIME reported:

“Research has also shown that blueberry eaters experience a boost in natural killer cells, ‘a type of white blood cell that plays a vital role in immunity, critical for countering stress,’ says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, Health’s contributing nutrition editor.

Try: Blueberry Vegan Cheesecake

Of course the best way to get your blueberries is pure and raw, but hey – why not have a bit of fun with them, too? And who doesn’t enjoy an indulgent slice (or slab, we don’t judge) of cheesecake?

Get the recipe here.

Try: Blissful Blueberry Banana Muffins

Now we really can have our cake and eat it, too – these muffins are 100% healthy and are packed with stress-busting berries.

Get the recipe here.


6. Pistachios


One study found eating two servings of pistachios a day lowered vascular constriction during stress, which means the load on your heart is reduced since your arteries are more dilated. Not to mention, you might find the rhythmic act of shelling pistachios therapeutic, as doing a repetitive activity can help quiet racing thoughts in your head.

Pistachios are at high risk of contamination by a carcinogenic mold called aflatoxin and may be bleached or fumigated during processing; choose organic pistachios and avoid those that are dyed, bleached, or show signs of decay.

Try: Avocado & Banana ‘Soft Serve’ with Pistachios

Who remembers the delicious soft serve ice cream we all enjoyed as children? Maybe I’m just nostalgic for a time when a cone could be filled with ice cream for just 99p, but this delicious take on that iconic ice cream is a real winner, and the pistachios give a superb added crunch.

Get the recipe here.


7. Dark Chocolate


If you’re one of these individuals who gets a nice mood boost whenever you sink your teeth into a bar of pure, unadulterated chocolate, it is not happenstance. There’s a chemical reason behind it called anandamide, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression. It’s a derivative of the Sanskrit word “bliss,” and one of the great things about chocolate is that it not only produces this compound, it also contains other chemicals that prolong the “feel-good” aspects of anandamide.

Chocolate has even been referred to as “the new anti-anxiety drug.” One study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology also revealed that drinking an antioxidant-rich chocolate drink equal to about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily felt calmer than those who did not.

Try: Vegan Chocolate & Pomegranate Mousse

Sorry, who ever said being vegan meant eating boring foods? Hello, gloriously chocolatey mousse!

Get the recipe here.


8. Eggs


A daily dose of sunshine might help stabilize your mood. Serotonin, the brain hormone associated with mood elevation, rises with exposure to bright light and falls with decreased sun exposure. In 2006, scientists evaluated the effects of vitamin D on the mental health of 80 elderly patients and found those with the lowest levels of vitamin D were 11 times more prone to be depressed than those who received healthy doses.

Low vitamin D levels are also associated with an increased risk of panic disorders. While you can get some vitamin D in foods like salmon, egg yolks, and mushrooms, your best solution for optimizing your levels is through sensible sun exposure.

Try: Egg & Avocado Sandwich

If you are going to consume eggs, we suggest you do so whilst still remaining healthy and filling up on plant based goodness. So why not combine it with the creamy texture of avocado? And with the egg and creaminess of the avocado, you won’t want to fill your sandwich with unnecessary ingredients such as butter and mayo as the layer of Dijon mustard gives this the perfect kick.

Get the recipe here.


9. Seeds


Magnesium, which acts as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin, is well-known for its role in helping to regulate your emotions and enhance well-being. Dr. Carolyn Dean, a medical and naturopathic doctor, has studied and written about magnesium for more than 15 years. The latest edition of her book, The Magnesium Miracle, details 22 medical areas that magnesium deficiency triggers, including anxiety, panic attacks, and depression.

Seaweed and green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard can be excellent sources of magnesium, as are some beans, nuts, and seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. Avocados also contain magnesium. Juicing your vegetables is an excellent option to ensure you’re getting enough of them in your diet.

Try: Pumpkin, Quinoa Granola

Granola is a great way of adding nuts and seeds into the mix. Sometimes snacking on pumpkin seeds can make you feel like you’re eating rabbit food as opposed to trail mix, so mixing it with other hearty and tasty ingredients not only gives you the best start to the day, but it’s also beneficial to your body.

Get the recipe here.


10. Avocado


Avocados provide close to 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folate, and, according to research published in the Nutrition Journal, eating just one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch may satiate you if you’re overweight, which will help prevent unnecessary snacking later.

Those who ate half an avocado with their standard lunch reported being 40 percent less hungry three hours after their meal, and 28 percent less hungry at the five-hour mark compared to those who did not eat avocado for lunch. The study also found that avocados appear helpful for regulating blood sugar levels. This combination of satiety and blood-sugar regulation can help keep your mood steady, even in times of stress.

Try: Grilled Avocado

Avocados are slowly but surely gaining the recognition they deserve. They’re sooo delicious after all! But eating them daily can begin to get a little tiresome, as with any food. If you’re looking to enjoy avocado, why not make this grilled avocado recipe? You can turn it into a filling dish by stuffing them with foods such as chickpeas, or even rice.

Get the recipe here.

This article was originally published on


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