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Choosing the Right Food to Eat when Stressed

By M. Borriero

Stress can hugely impact our mental health and personal lives and is something that everyone feels at times.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, 74% of UK adults have felt so stressed during the past year that they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. There are many ways to manage or reduce stress levels when coping with difficult events, and one is choosing stress-busting foods.

Our in-house Dietitian & Nutritionist Joanne Kwok says that: “when stressed, we are more likely to lean towards comfort foods such as baked goods, sweetened drinks and convenience foods. These processed foods are generally high in sugar, saturated fats, trans fats and salt, all of which can be detrimental to health if consumed at excess amounts. We also tend to lower our intakes of fruits and vegetables, which leads to greater risks of developing certain medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers”.

Choosing the Right Foods to Eat when Stressed

How Stress can Affect our Body?

“Constantly being exposed to stressed environments can affect our bodies, and this is particularly prominent in those with sensitive stomachs, leading to IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms such as extensive bloating, pain, and change in bowel movements. Being chronically stressed may suppress our appetites and digestion, leading to unintended weight loss which can be dangerous especially if you are at risk of malnutrition”, says Joanne Kwok.

“And vice versa, what we eat can impact our stress levels. A healthy balanced diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on our body, and even making small changes and adjustments can make us feel much better both physically and mentally.”

Choosing the Right Foods to Eat when Stressed

What does Healthy Eating mean and How your Diet can Affect Stress Levels?

“A healthy balanced diet includes all food groups. This means that you should include some protein, carbohydrates and vegetables in your meals. Eating a diet rich in fibre (which is found in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains) helps keep our blood sugar levels stable which minimises fluctuations in energy levels.  

Aim for 5-a-day and try to include a variety. This may be in a form of a healthy snack, for example a piece of fruit or vegetable sticks. You may also bulk up your meals by adding a handful of greens to a variety of dishes like stews, curries and stir-fry”.

Food to Avoid When Stressed

Food to Avoid When Stressed

Sugar: Even though sugar is one of the hardest things to avoid when feeling stressed, processed and sugary foods give you a quick boost of energy, followed by a rapid drop in sugar levels, leading to increased food cravings (likely another sugary item!) and mood swings. Constantly doing so, would put your body at a tremendous strain.

Caffeine and alcohol: Whilst one may enjoy a glass after a stressful day at work, drinking in large amounts can lead to alcohol dependency. Drinking before bed can also affect our sleep because of the amount of adrenaline released and peaks in blood sugar levels – all factors that can increase stress hormones even more.

Caffeine is naturally found in coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa beans. The actual caffeine contents in these beverages varies, even between filter coffee and an espresso! High levels of caffeine intake, especially drinking before bed, can lead to insomnia, poor quality of sleep and irritability, affecting our ability to manage stress and emotions.

Vitamins & Supplements to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

If you are coping with stress, nervousness and anxiety, adding these supplements to your daily routine can help your body manage better stressful events as well as lowering cortisol levels.

B+C Complex Solgar


The Ultimate B+C Complex by Solgar is a potent antioxidant blend that boots your immune system supporting nervous system and energy levels. Vitamin B6 regulates serotonin and melatonin, hormones associated to sleep, stress and mood, and Vitamin B3 assists in the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.

Relax Ease – Lyferoots

Relax Ease contains a blend of vitamins, minerals and plant-based botanicals created to aid holistic stress relief. Ingredients such as Magnesium, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola, are able to reduce the fatigue that comes from stress and anxiety.

DrinkAware (n.d.) UK alcohol unit guidance: CMO’s Low Risk Drinking Guidelines. Available at:
EFSA NDA Panel (EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies), 2015. Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine. ESFA Journal 2015; 13(5):4102, 120pp. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4102
International Agency for Research on Cancer (2018) Red meat and processed meat. Available at:
Lopresti AL. (2020) The Effects of Psychological and Environmental Stress on Micronutrient Concentrations in the Body: A Review of the Evidence. Advances in Nutrition 11(1) pp103-112. doi:
Mayer EM, Savidge T and Shulman RJ. (2014) Brain-gut microbiome interactions and functional bowel disorders. Gastroenterology 146(6):1500-12. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2014.02.037
Public Health England (2018) Eatwell Guide.
Rhys-Jones D. (2020) Anxiety, IBS and Microbiome Links. Monash FODMAP Blog. Available at:

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