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There are many ways to manage and even reduce stress levels when you’re feeling tense. Food can be one of your biggest allies — or enemies. Unhealthy eating patterns can send stress levels skyrocketing and potentially increase your risk of health problems in the future if you don’t address them.

“Microbiome health, or gut health, affects your mood, emotions, and psychological health,” says Alice Figueroa, RDN, MPH, a nutritionist in New York City and founder of Alice in Foodieland. So we need to eat healthy foods to help keep your gut healthy! These are foods contain nutrients that can help fend off stress:

1. Herbal Tea Helps Promote Feelings of Warmth and Calmness.

Drinking a warm cup of tea is one way to help make yourself feel calmer, says Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, an online nutrition coach and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Kentucky. Past research has suggested that holding and sipping a warm beverage increases feelings of interpersonal “warmth” and friendliness. There's a soothing effect of sipping a warm drink, regardless of the flavor — but certain herbs, like lavender and chamomile, have been shown to have a relaxing effect on their own, Meyerowitz says.

2. Dark Chocolate Offers an Antioxidant-Rich Indulgence

Dark chocolate in the diet can reduce stress in two ways — via its chemical impact and its emotional impact. Chocolate feels like such an indulgence that it can be a real treat to simply savor a piece of it, and that feeling alone can help to reduce stress, says Meyerowitz.

3. Whole Grains Provide a Mood-Boosting Way to Carbo-Load

According to prior research, carbohydrates can temporarily increase levels of serotonin, a hormone that boosts mood and reduces stress. Once serotonin levels are increased, people under stress have better concentration and focus. Just make sure to choose healthy, unrefined carbohydrates, like sweet potatoes and whole grains, for better nutrition, and limit simple carbs, such as cookies, cake, and “white” foods, including white pasta and white bread. Unrefined carbs cause a quick spike and crash of blood sugar, while complex carbs contain vitamins and minerals as well as fiber, and so take longer to digest and have less of an immediate impact on blood sugar, according to Harvard School of Public Health. Because fiber can also support a healthy gut microbiome, reach for high-fiber foods, including whole rye, buckwheat, and brown rice, says Figueroa.

4. Avocados Offer Stress-Busting Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Avocados are not only delicious mashed into guacamole or sliced and added to a salad — they also offer omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy essential acids are known to reduce stress and anxiety, boost concentration, and improve mood, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

5. Fish Can Boost Your Heart Health While Fending Off Stress

Fight stress and help prevent heart disease by adding seafood to your plate. Fatty fish in particular are a great option because they’re heart-healthy, and their omega-3s may help ease depression because the nutrients easily interact with mood-related brain molecules, according to the Harvard Health Blog. Fatty fish include tuna, halibut, salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines, and lake trout, according to the American Heart Association.

Not a fish fan? There are other whole-food options, like seaweed, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and fortified food, such as certain brands of eggs, milk, soy milk, and nut milk

6. Warm Milk Can Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep, Aiding Stress Management

Calcium-rich foods are an essential part of a healthy diet for bone health, but this nutrient may also help reduce depression, according to a study published in December 2012 in the journal Nutrition Research and Practice. Milk and other dairy foods with calcium and added vitamin D can help muscles relax and stabilize mood — one study, published in January 2017 in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, even found that it can also ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

7. Nuts Are a Great Stress-Busting Snack and They’re High in Healthy Fat

Nuts are full of nutrients, including B vitamins, along with healthy fatty acids. Meyerowitz says B vitamins are an important part of a healthy diet and can help reduce stress. Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts may even help lower blood pressure levels. According to a past study, pistachios in particular can have a role in reducing stress levels. Just remember to limit servings to just a handful a day to avoid excess calories.

8. Citrus Fruits and Strawberries Contain Vitamin C, Which Help Fight Stress

Some studies have found that high levels of vitamin C may help ease stress levels. One double-blind study, published January 2015 in the Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences, reported that vitamin C reduced stress levels in participants taking 500 mg per day, and also pointed to possible anxiety prevention.

9. Probiotics Can Create a Healthy Gut Microbiota, Helping You Manage Stress

The best way to support healthy gut hormones is with good-for-you bacteria called probiotics, Figueroa says. According to Harvard Health Publishing, probiotics can help boost the immune system, protect against harmful bacteria, and improve digestion and absorption of nutrients. An article published in December 2018 in University Health News cited several studies that found gut health has a direct correlation to improving anxiety, depression, and mood. One way is that gut bacteria can produce molecules with neuroactive functions, including serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which positively influence mood.

10. Foods High in Fiber May Reduce Stress and Anxiety

As Figueroa mentioned, fiber-rich foods are gut-friendly and can play a role in lowering stress.

We hear it all the time: ‘eat foods that are rich in fiber,’ and it’s because they balance your blood sugar and prevent spikes in your insulin levels,” Figueroa says. Source:

Stress can play a large role in managing your weight—and how easily you can lose it.

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