5 Dietary Strategies To Ease Stress

Feeling stressed? Try these nutrition strategies and revel in your relaxation. Let your diet take you on a date to the spa!

No matter how hard you try, you always seem to leave a seat at the table for your old friend, Stress. Your awful mother-in-law, obnoxious boss or screaming kids make you feel anything but relaxed. Most of us live with some stress, endure it, but too much stress can increase our risk of depression, stroke and heart disease.

Stress can also be detrimental to your fitness goals. How? Stress increases the level of cortisol in your body. Excess cortisol makes staying lean difficult and can increase the risk of breaking down lean muscle tissue, you know, the stuff you worked so hard to build.

To combat this, take time out of your busy schedule to manage stress. Although not all of us have the time or money to spend a day at the spa getting massages and listening to nature-scapes, we can employ other strategies. Write in a journal, take a hot bath, phone a friend, play a video game or exercise.

You also need to square away your diet. Food you eat on an everyday basis significantly influences your stress levels. Good food provides key nutrients that may ease stress and keep blood sugar levels stable, avoiding jitters-inducing crashes.

Beginning to feel relaxed? OK, here are a few dietary tips to help you manage stress.


Try Tryptophan-
Rich Foods

The post-dinner nap is a hallmark of Thanksgiving. Falling asleep after turkey dinner has little to do with how exciting the football game is. Turkey dinners tend to be relaxing because turkey is a powerful source of the amino acid tryptophan, which has potent relaxation effects in the body.

As tryptophan enters the body, it undergoes a series of reactions as it breaks down. It first converts to serotonin, which has feel-good effects on the body. After that it converts to melatonin, which causes sleepiness.

Besides turkey, other tryptophan-rich foods are chicken breast, tuna, soybeans, beef, lamb, shrimp and salmon.

Nothing quite like a bit of ground tryptophan. Gobble, gobble!


Pump Up Your
Diet With Calcium

People overlook the mind-body connections of stress. If your mind is stressed, you will probably feel physical symptoms; if your body is stressed, your mind will likely suffer.

Calcium promotes strong bone-growth, and it is also important for muscle relaxation. Because the mind and body are connected, relaxed muscles may help relax your mind. If you're often tense and tight due to high stress levels, consuming calcium may help relax your muscles.


Sip Chamomile Tea
Rather Than Coffee

That mid-day cup of coffee is an important part of your day. That dose of caffeine helps you feel energized, gain some mental clarity and improves your concentration. But, as soon as caffeine wears off, you may find yourself foggy and groggy.

Instead of coffee, consider sipping a cup of chamomile tea. For centuries, chamomile tea has been used to help support a state of relaxation. Most people consume it in the evening, but don't be afraid to try it whenever stress arises.

In addition to relieving stress, chamomile can also relax muscles and aid digestion.


Include Plenty Of
Fatty Fish

To relieve stress, some people grab a fishing pole and head down to the river. If you're not into putting on rubber waders and casting into freezing water, you can instead choose to eat fish to help manage stress. Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel help bring down cortisol levels, which elevate when stress levels are high.

In addition, the protein in these fish may be a great way to help maintain blood sugar levels already within normal range, further reducing physical stress and helping repair broken-down muscle tissue.

Other foods rich in essential fats include walnuts, flaxseeds and sardines.


Don't Forget

When your body is under stress, magnesium levels tend to be lower. In one study published in the Cardiovascular Drugs And Therapy journal, researchers noted that competitive tri-athletes who supplemented with magnesium during a 4-week trial experienced lower overall levels of cortisol in their system than those who didn't.

Magnesium-rich foods to include in your diet plan are beans, broccoli, halibut, nuts, scallops, spinach and tofu.

Good nutrition is the key to managing stress; implementing healthy foods into your diet might help you unwind and let go, so you can go forward.


  1. Bender, S. et al. (1997). On the significance of Magnesium in Extreme Physical Stress. Cardiovascular drugs and therapy. Vol. 12, Supplement 2, 197-202.