When going through a stressful period many people find comfort in reaching for comfort foods such as chocolate, bread or alcohol.  Although these foods may give you short term relief from your stress or anxiety they may also have the opposite affect and increase your stress. 

This article outlines nutrients which your body draws on in times of overwhelm and anxiety.  Eating foods rich in these nutrients will top up your body’s stores, providing the support needed to manage your stress response and maintain wellbeing. 

Vitamin C: When stressed your body responds by releasing cortisol and adrenaline -hormones which prepare your body to react.  These hormones are produced by the adrenal glands.  Our adrenal glands contain a large reservoir of vitamin C.  Nourish your adrenal glands by ensuring your diet includes plenty of vitamin C. 

Food high in vitamin C:  Citrus fruit, berries, tomatoes, kiwi fruit, broccoli, papaya, leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower.

B vitamins are well known supplement for stress.   B vitamins are used within the body for

  • the energy cycle hence low levels may contribute to fatigue
  • for supporting your nervous and digestive systems,
  • producing neurotransmitters which help you to deal with stress

Foods high in B vitamins:  animal products, whole grains, leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds

Magnesium is an important nutrient which many people are deficient in.  Magnesium supports the body in times of stress by calming the body by reducing stress hormones and assists sleep. 

Foods high in magnesium:  green leafy vegetables, legumes, avocado, whole grains, almonds, chicken, cocoa, parley, walnuts. 

Zinc is required for creating serotonin – the hormone considered to be a natural mood stabiliser.  When you are deficient in zinc it can affect your digestion, nutrient absorption and your ability to cope with stress. 

Foods high in zinc:  red meat, shellfish, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cashews, almonds, pine nuts, peanuts, eggs, mushroom, spinach.

Omega 3 fatty acids:  These are a healthy fat which are important for brain health.  They play a role in sharpening the mind as well as supporting mood and emotion.

Foods high in omega 3 fatty acids:  Oily fish such as trout, salmon, anchovies, sardines, mackerel.  Also walnuts, flax seed oil. 

Equally important as what to eat are what foods to avoid.  Some foods will negatively impact your ability to respond to stress and may strengthen your physical response.

Foods to avoid include:

  • caffeine can increase your body’s production of stress hormones and make it difficult to relax. Responses to caffeine are individual, try cutting back or cutting out caffeine for a few days and see how you feel.  Many people suffer headaches when they stop drinking caffeine, increase your consumption of water and allow your body time to adjust. 
  • Limit alcohol or cut it out
  • Refined carbohydrates – foods high in sugar and refined flour e.g. pasta, white bread, packaged biscuits and cakes. Beware of ready meals these are often high in sugar, salt and preservatives. 
  • Deep fried food and margarine which contain unhealthy fats.

There are many foods that play and role in managing stress and this article provides a few of the ones.  Try to incorporate these into your daily diet to naturally support your stress response.  If your body is depleted, a therapeutic dose of nutrients may be beneficial and your nutritionist can help recommend the best supplement for you.    


The information is generic in nature, please contact your healthcare practitioner before making any diet or lifestyle changes. 

Further assistance

Lifeline – 13 11 14 -Crisis support and counselling services for anyone at any time.

Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636 – Information and support for depression and anxiety.

Headspace – 1800 650 890 -Mental health support for young people with local centres, online and telephone services.