Diet tips to combat stress and anxiety

Stress can take its toll on your body over time and one way it does this is by depleting your body’s stores of nutrients. Don’t let stress beat you – find out what you need to do to get back on form.

Stress is a normal part of everybody's lives and in some circumstances it can be integral to survival. But when you are regularly stressed, or stressed over a long period of time, your body pays the price.

Being stressed stimulates your adrenal glands, which can increase the secretion of hormones that cause a loss of minerals. The minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium stores are depleted in this way. Vitamins B and C are too.

So it’s important if you feel stressed that you include in your diet plenty of the following foods, which are rich in these nutrients:

Replenish these vitamins and minerals when you're stressed

Calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium-rich foods

Green leafy vegetables, globe artichokes, parsley, nuts; in particular almonds, seeds; in particular pumpkin seeds, small canned fish with soft bones (e.g. sardines, salmon), prunes, dried figs, apricots, chickpeas, baked beans and buckwheat, tofu and soya products, blackstrap molasses, yoghurt, whole grains, garlic and brown rice.

Vitamin C-rich foods

Citrus fruits, blackcurrants, gooseberries, guava, kiwi, lychees, paw-paw, raspberries, parsley, spinach, green beans, peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, peppers, spring greens and watercress. 

Vitamin B-rich foods

Egg yolk, liver, wheatgerm, nuts, red meat, cereals, yeast, dairy products, vegetables, fish, whole grains, such as wheat and oats, leafy green vegetables and beans and peas. 

Mood enhancers

On the flip side, selenium has been shown to elevate mood and decrease anxiety, so topping up on this mineral might help improve your outlook on life. Chamomile also helps reduce anxiety and calm nerves with its gentle relaxant properties. So try having a cup of chamomile tea if you feel stressed. 

Selenium-rich foods

Brazil nuts, lentils, wheat germ, kidneys, liver, tuna, oily fish, seafood, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts and oats.

Nutrition as the cause

Nutrient deficiency can also be a cause of anxiety. Chromium deficiency has this effect, so getting plenty of chromium can help prevent the condition. 

Chromium-rich foods

Brewer's yeast, oysters, liver, whole grains, bran cereals, and potatoes.

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Last updated Tuesday 20 September 2022

First published on Tuesday 24 May 2016