National Stress Awareness Month: Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

We are all familiar with stress coping mechanisms like deep breathing, exercise, and quality sleep. But did you know that eating habits can have an impact on stress and anxiety as well? Research shows that there are some foods that can help lower cortisol levels, which is the hormone in our bodies that is predominantly responsible for feelings of stress. Below, we’ll go over some foods that can help us manage stress and anxiety in a healthy way when consumed as part of a varied diet.

Happy Bite.

Happy Bite.
Ellie Lane, ©2024, Clemson Extension

Vitamin B

Foods high in Vitamin B are known to have a positive impact on our mental health. B vitamins play a significant role in how our brain functions and aids in mood regulation. Animal food sources, including beef, chicken, and eggs, are all great sources of Vitamin B. Fortified foods, such as most cereals, are also excellent sources of B vitamins.

Healthy Fats

Avocados, flax seeds, olive oil, walnuts, and some types of fatty fish can help improve feelings of stress and anxiety due to having omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats benefit your cardiovascular system and reduce cortisol levels, which contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety.


Proper sleep hygiene is key when it comes to managing stress. Foods high in magnesium have been shown to improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety. Bananas, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, and 90% cacao dark chocolate are all rich in magnesium.


The amino acids derived from protein are utilized to create the hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for the body’s stress response. Try adding protein-rich foods such as almonds, lean cuts of meat, poultry, eggs, and peanuts to your diet to help reduce overall stress.


Fermented foods and other foods full of probiotics help restore the healthy bacteria in the body’s digestive system. These bacteria help produce the key mood-boosting hormones in the digestive tract, helping you better manage stress. Greek yogurt, sauerkraut, and kefir are all examples of gut-healthy foods to include in your daily eating plan.

Foods to Avoid

While all the above foods have been shown to reduce stress, there are other foods that can worsen feelings of stress and anxiety. Alcohol may feel as though it provides stress relief in the short term; however, research shows that alcohol can exacerbate your stress and anxiety over time. Caffeine also impacts the body’s ability to handle stress, which can lead to overstimulation of the body’s natural stress response. This overstimulation can cause sleep disruptions. Lastly, eating foods rich in sugar and simple carbohydrates can escalate stress levels by spiking blood glucose, leading to elevated cortisol levels.

While we often turn to familiar stress-relief practices like breathing techniques, physical activity, and restful sleep, it’s worth noting that our dietary choices also play a significant role in managing stress and anxiety. Including the above foods in your daily diet is one way you can help better manage your stress.

Related Factsheets:

HGIC 4369, Stress Management

HGIC 4376, Coping with Stress and Mental Health

HGIC 4392, What Happens in the Body During Stress?


  1. “Eat These Foods to Reduce Stress and Anxiety.” Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic. 14 June 2021. Web. 12 May 2024.
  2. Hobbs, Savannah. “Tips for Healthy Eating to Help Manage Stress.” Colorado State University Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center. College of Health and Human Sciences. Nov 2019. Web. 12 May 2024.
  3. Siegel, Kalah. “The 10 Best Foods to Help Fight Stress.” Everyday Health. Everyday Health Group. 9 Sept 2023. Web. 12 May 2024.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at or 1-888-656-9988.

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