If you’re feeling stressed, it’s only natural to seek relief.
While occasional bouts of stress are difficult to avoid, chronic stress can take a serious toll on your physical and emotional health. In fact, it may increase your risk of conditions like heart disease and depression (
Interestingly, certain foods and beverages may have stress-relieving qualities.
Here are 18 stress-relieving foods and beverages to add to your diet.
This vibrant green tea powder is popular among health enthusiasts because it’s rich in L-theanine, a non-protein amino acid with powerful stress-relieving properties.
Matcha is a better source of this amino acid than other types of green tea, as it’s made from green tea leaves grown in shade. This process increases its content of certain compounds, including L-theanine (
Both human and animal studies show that matcha may reduce stress if its L-theanine content is high enough and its caffeine is low (
For example, in a 15-day study, 36 people ate cookies containing 4.5 grams of matcha powder each day. They experienced significantly reduced activity of the stress marker salivary alpha-amylase, compared with a placebo group (
Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that’s packed with stress-fighting nutrients.
Low levels of this mineral are associated with conditions like anxiety and panic attacks. Plus, chronic stress may deplete your body’s magnesium stores, making this mineral especially important when you’re stressed (
Although cortisol levels are tightly regulated, chronic stress can lead to cortisol dysfunction, which may cause inflammation, pain, and other adverse effects (
An 8-week study in women with excess weight or obesity found that those who ate a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense carbs had significantly lower levels of salivary cortisol than those who followed a standard American diet high in refined carbs (
Kimchi is a fermented vegetable dish that’s typically made with napa cabbage and daikon, a type of radish. Fermented foods like kimchi are packed with beneficial bacteria called probiotics and high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (
Research reveals that fermented foods may help reduce stress and anxiety (
Many other studies show that probiotic supplements and probiotic-rich foods like kimchi have beneficial effects on mental health. This is likely due to their interactions with your gut bacteria, which directly affect your mood (
Artichokes are an incredibly concentrated source of fiber and especially rich in prebiotics, a type of fiber that feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut (
Plus, one review demonstrated that people who ate 5 or more grams of prebiotics per day experienced improved anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as that high quality, prebiotic-rich diets may reduce your risk of stress (
Organ meats, which include the heart, liver, and kidneys of animals like cows and chickens, are an excellent source of B vitamins, especially B12, B6, riboflavin, and folate, which are essential for stress control.
Supplementing with B vitamins or eating foods like organ meats may help reduce stress. A review of 18 studies in adults found that B vitamin supplements lowered stress levels and significantly benefited mood (
Just 1 slice (85 grams) of beef liver delivers over 50% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin B6 and folate, over 200% of the DV for riboflavin, and over 2,000% of the DV for vitamin B12 (
Eggs are often referred to as nature’s multivitamin because of their impressive nutrient profile. Whole eggs are packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants needed for a healthy stress response.
Whole eggs are particularly rich in choline, a nutrient found in large amounts in only a few foods. Choline has been shown to play an important role in brain health and may protect against stress (
Shellfish, which include mussels, clams, and oysters, are high in amino acids like taurine, which one rodent study suggests has potential mood-boosting properties (
Taurine and other amino acids are needed to produce neurotransmitters like dopamine, which are essential for regulating stress response. In fact, studies indicate that taurine may have antidepressant effects (
Shellfish are also loaded with vitamin B12, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium, all of which may help boost mood. A study in 2,089 Japanese adults associated low intakes of zinc, copper, and manganese with depression and anxiety symptoms (
Vitamin C is involved in stress response. What’s more, high vitamin C levels are linked to elevated mood and lower levels of depression and anger. Plus, eating foods rich in this vitamin may improve overall mood (
Although they can be enjoyed fresh, acerola cherries are highly perishable. As such, they’re most often sold as a powder, which you can add to foods and beverages.
Fatty fish like mackerel, herring, salmon, and sardines are incredibly rich in omega-3 fats and vitamin D, nutrients that have been shown to help reduce stress levels and improve mood.
Omega-3s are not only essential for brain health and mood but may also help your body handle stress. In fact, low omega-3 intake is linked to increased anxiety and depression in Western populations (
Parsley is a nutritious herb that’s packed with antioxidants — compounds that neutralize unstable molecules called free radicals and protect against oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is associated with many illnesses, including mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. Studies suggest that a diet rich in antioxidants may help prevent stress and anxiety (
Some older research suggests that garlic is high in sulfur compounds that may help increase levels of glutathione. This antioxidant is part of your body’s first line of defense against stress.
However, newer research doesn’t list garlic as a vegetable that increases glutathione. Instead, the 2019 review suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet — which often includes ample garlic — may improve glutathione levels (
Tahini is a rich spread made from sesame seeds, which are an excellent source of the amino acid L-tryptophan.
One 2018 review notes that the serotonin in your brain is derived from tryptophan, suggesting that there may be a link between tryptophan levels and mood and anxiety, but more human studies are needed. (
Sunflower seeds are a rich source of vitamin E. This fat-soluble vitamin acts as a powerful antioxidant and is essential for mental health.
A low intake of this nutrient is associated with altered mood and depression (
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are renowned for their health benefits. A diet rich in cruciferous vegetables may lower your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and mental health disorders like depression (
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are some of the most concentrated food sources of some nutrients — including magnesium, vitamin C, and folate — that have been proven to combat depressive symptoms (
Broccoli is rich in sulforaphane, a sulfur compound that has neuroprotective properties and may offer calming and antidepressant effects, according to animal studies (
Chickpeas are packed with stress-fighting vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, manganese, and copper.
These delicious legumes are also rich in L-tryptophan, which your body needs to produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters (
Research has found that diets rich in plant proteins like chickpeas may help boost brain health and improve mental performance (
In a study in over 9,000 people, those who followed a Mediterranean diet rich in plant foods like legumes experienced better mood and less stress than those who followed a typical Western diet rich in processed foods (
Chamomile is a medicinal herb that has been used since ancient times as a natural stress reducer. Its tea and extract have been shown to promote restful sleep and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression (
These berries are high in flavonoid antioxidants that have powerful anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. They may help reduce stress-related inflammation and protect against stress-related cellular damage (
Numerous foods contain nutrients that may help you reduce stress.
Matcha powder, fatty fish, kimchi, garlic, chamomile tea, and broccoli are just a few that may help.
Ultimately, eating a rainbow of foods, including a good variety of fruits and vegetables, which provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, may help improve your overall health and well-being.