Want to supercharge your mood? Look at what you’re eating. Food is an important - but often overlooked - piece of the puzzle for managing stress. The food you eat can have a direct impact not just on things like anxiety, depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder, but even on your everyday mood. Eliminating inflammatory ingredients like gluten, dairy, and sugar can be a great place to start, but you also need to be sure you’re getting adequate stress-busting nutrients.
Stress causes our cortisol levels to rise, which can cause food cravings, leading us to eat less-than-healthy things and raise cortisol even more. Look to the following foods to help manage cortisol, overall mood, and help your body deal with the effects of stress. Many of these ingredients are staples for us that you’ll find on our menu year-round, and for good reason. In addition to helping your body manage stress, they’re high in essential vitamins and other nutrients that improve overall health.
Salmon - Wild salmon tops the list of our good-mood foods. It is an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which are linked to lower risk of depression, among other disorders like cardiovascular disease and cancer. Omega-3s can reverse symptoms of stress by lowering the anxiety hormones cortisol and adrenaline and helping to boost the feel-good hormone serotonin. Salmon is also rich in vitamin B12 and choline, both which are essential for nervous system function.
Citrus. Our bodies burn through vitamin C when stressed. Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C to help replenish. It also helps lower cortisol - the hormone released when you’re under stress. Try incorporating some vegetables rich in vitamin C like bell pepper and cauliflower, too.
Berries - from blueberries and raspberries to cranberries and golden berries - are excellent sources of antioxidants to help repair stress-related damage. They’re also high in vitamin C.
Grass-fed steak - Red meat can actually be health-promoting when sourced from healthy, grass-fed animals. Aside from being free from artificial hormones and antibiotics, cows that feed exclusively on grass have a much different nutrient profile (after all, you are what your food eats) than their conventional counterparts. There are more antioxidants like vitamins C and E, and it’s higher in omega-3 fatty acids.
Cashews are a good source of zinc, an essential mineral that your body doesn’t store, so you need to consume some every day. Low levels of zinc have been tied to anxiety disorders. Other nuts, like walnuts and almonds, can be good sources of zinc, too.
Cacao -The rumors are true - dark chocolate is good for your mood. Raw cacao powder is full of antioxidants and calming magnesium - a mineral that many people are deficient in.
Garlic - Stress weakens your immune system, and garlic can be a powerful antidote. It’s packed with antioxidants and the compound allicin (also found in onions, shallots, scallions, and leeks), which can help fight everything from the common cold to cancer.
Oats - Oats can be a healthy way to quell those stressed out cravings for carbs. They help your body produce the feel-good hormone serotonin, and are rich in soluble fiber to help keep you full and blood sugar balanced.
Eggs - Pasture-raised eggs are high in folate, a B vitamin that has been tied to reducing depression, anxiety, and panic.
Maca is a popular adaptogen that helps your body adapt to stress. If you’re feeling run down and depleted, it can help increase your energy levels. If you’re feeling wired and frazzled, it can help calm you down.
Dark leafy greens are all-around health powerhouses that are, not surprisingly, great for managing stress as well. They’re high in calming nutrients like B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium. Look for greens like spinach, kale, arugula, and Swiss chard.
Looking for other ways to manage stress? Try swapping coffee for green tea or our Dandelion and Chicory Daily Roast. Make sure you’re getting adequate quality sleep. Meditate regularly. Get outside and get moving for some natural endorphins. Take a vitamin D supplement during the winter months. Also, keep your gut happy through probiotic foods and supplements. You can read more about balancing your cortisol levels naturally here.
Sarah Hebbel-Stone, CNE - Head of Client Wellness
Sarah is a certified Culinary Nutrition Expert and yoga instructor with a passion for holistic health and cooking. She is our resident health counselor and assists our chefs in developing the weekly menu. When she's not answering our client's health and wellness questions, she can be found planning her next travel adventure or exploring Brooklyn with her hound dog, Remi.