Foods that Help Reduce Stress

Health, Home & Family
on March 2, 2003

Many people turn to traditional comfort foodsmacaroni and cheese, ice cream, and pizzaduring times of stress. But these high-fat foods clog arteries and make a body lethargic.

Use this guide, provided by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, to make nutritious food choices:


  • High-fiber, carbohydrate-rich foods. Carbohydrates cause the brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone that relaxes us, scientists say. Healthy comfort foods include baked sweet potatoes, minestrone soup, or sautéed vegetables over rice.
  • Fruits and vegetables. Chronic stress can weaken the ability to fight disease, but increasing the intake of foods rich in antioxidants (compounds that protect DNA from the damaging effects of oxygen molecules called free radicals) can boost the immune system. Examples are acorn squash, carrots, and citrus.


  • High-fat foods. Meat or cheese dishes and many baked goods thicken blood, which in turn makes us feel tired, even lethargic.
  • Caffeine. Caffeine stays in our system longer than we realize. Cutting back can help with both sleeping problems and the jitters.
  • Sugar. Sugar enters and leaves the bloodstream rapidly, causing us to crash.