Post on: May 20, 2020.

Posted in: Read.

It can be hard to maintain a healthy diet in times of stress. Some of us stress drives us to seek out sweets and comfort foods, while others find stressful times cause their appetite to dwindle making it hard to know what to eat when stressed. But, what should you eat when you are stressed? According to researchers and experts on diet and psychiatry, there are 8 foods you should eat when stressed.

What should you eat when stressed?

Stressed spelled backwards is desserts. For many of us, that means chocolate cake, blondies and chocolate chip cookies are constant staples in our diets during times of stress. The sugar, salt, and fat found in desserts, and other comfort foods, act like jet fuel for your brain. This triple threat induces a positive, energizing sensation in your brain. No wonder it can feel so soothing to sink your teeth into a donut, or munch on a bag of crunchy chips when feeling stressed!

Can I Eat to Relieve Stress?

There are lots of foods that help you when you’re stressed. Despite how your stress seems to literally melt away as your teeth sink into that fudgy, moist piece of dark chocolate cake, it’s only a temporary fix – one that goes straight to your hips, or for some, negatively affects your mood. There’s a better place to sink your teeth. And, it includes chocolate! In fact, there are 8 foods you should eat when stressed and start feeling better today!

What is Emotional Eating?

Stress eating and overeating are common problems among adults. Emotional eating is when a person eats over any emotion, such as fear, anxiety, worry, guilt, even happiness. Dr. Coral Arvon, PhD, LMFT, LCSW, the Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Center, in Miami, Florida, explains that, “It’s eating to comfort yourself.” Unfortunately, emotional eating can lead to struggles with weight. It also can cause problems with your mood, and sleep. 

Oats and citrus fruits are on the list of 8 foods you should eat when stressed.

8 Foods You Should Eat When Stressed


1. Chocolate

Chocolate has a fascinating impact on your brain. You’d probably agree having experienced the pleasure of nibbling on a piece of sweet, velvety, dark chocolate. Eating chocolate triggers the release of serotonin and endorphins – brain chemicals that regulate your mood. That’s why eating chocolate makes you feel good! Go on and jump with joy – dark chocolate is on the list of top foods you should eat when you are stressed. 

2. Oats

Eating comfort foods can be good for you – if you know which ones to reach for. Energize with foods that release energy slowly. This is key to keeping your mental power at its maximum – which is needed while you are stressed, struggling to cope, or trying to be productive while working from home. You can find comfort in oats! Whole grain oats can easily be transformed into a cozy bowl of hot oatmeal. It’ll feel a little indulgent to top your oats with fresh or frozen berries but, it’s actually the best way to boost the nutritional value of your bowl. 

Eating ultra-processed foods increases weight gain, according to research evidence. People who eat ultra-processed foods have greater odds of developing obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure than those who eat most of their calories from whole foods. If your mornings include ultra-processed foods, a healthier choice is oatmeal. Top it with fruits! If you really need an indulgence, add some dark chocolate chips, and a little splash of maple syrup.

3. Beans

Beans have a long shelf-life, are rich in vitamins, and can be transformed into a vast array of culinary delights from a Revitalizing Mango Black Bean Salad to simple additions to quesadillas or salads.

4. Spinach and Leafy Greens

You probably don’t think of salad when you are stressed, but we should. Stress is difficult on the body. Stress causes an increase in blood pressure, and inflammation. A bowl full of leafy greens or spinach offers your body helpful nutrients to fight the negative effects of stress.

Sufficient stress can also lower the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. Researchers in the United Kingdom, green vegetables beneficially interact with immune system in your gut, helping boost immunity. Ready to eat more green vegetables, such as broccoli and bok choy? Grab a fork, and dig into something green!

5. Water

If you like water, than you already like 60% of me on my worst days. The worst days are those I don’t hydrate enough. Raise your glasses with me – cheers! The body can be up to 75 percent water, so we should hydrate often if we want to be at our best. When you are less active, such as during quarantines or working from home, it’s easy to not feel thirsty. Create regular reminders to drink up. Set a timer, or put a pretty glass in a place you frequent often so it lures you in to take a sip. Try to avoid sweetened beverages as their high sugar content is harmful to your body.

Salmon bowl
Catch some good vibes by putting fish on your plate (pun intended).

6. Salmon

You can catch some good vibes by eating fish (pun intended). Your emotions, including stress, are coordinated by the body’s central nervous system. That system is made up of a lot of fat, called omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are linked with your mood. Having more of these healthy fats in your body appear to help reduce stress, depression, and improve mood. High in protein, tuna, salmon, and anchovies are great foods to eat when you are stressed. Salmon is delicious in a bowl filled with leafy greens and roasted vegetables, garnished with a quick tomato salsa, like in the photo above. A super quick way to turn tuna into a perfect meal, is in a Curry Tuna Collard Green Wrap

7. Citrus Fruits

In a study of young male adults, those who ate more vitamin C were less likely to struggle with anger or depression. Eating foods that are rich in vitamin C, may help improve your mood, report scientists. Slice into an orange, top your oats with raspberries, or squirt some fresh lemon into your water as vitamin C is associated with improved overall mood. 

8. Herbal Tea

Filling a tea cup with warm, soothing herbal tea can be a beautiful way to relieve stress. Sip it in a cozy spot, surrounded with comforting textures, uplifting colors, and serene views that bring you joy. Drinking tea is scientifically proven to lower markers of stress on your body, including cortisol. Cheers!


Revitalizing Mango Black Bean Salad is a great thing to eat when stressed.

Why Do I Crave Certain Foods?

Find ourself hanging out in front of the pantry, or fridge, when you’re stressed? Foraging for comforting foods is a common response to stress. You may also find you do it when you are bored.  You crave unhealthy food in times of stress because you’re bored, or seeking that high you get from sugar, salt and fat. Tricks to staying out of the pantry include eating regular meals/snacks to avoid feeling deprived, and trying going for a short walk every time you want to go digging in the pantry to make sure you aren’t eating out of boredom.