How to eat to beat stress

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, and while there’s no way to eternally dodge daily pressures, it is possible to build resilience and support your ability to cope with whatever comes your way - with your diet.


Typical advice for anyone feeling stressed or overwhelmed is to take some time off, practice mindfulness, spend more time in nature, focus on establishing a proper sleep routine, and perhaps think about some talk therapy. While there are many ways to relieve stress, one very underrated solution is to make changes to your daily diet.

How your diet influences stress, and how stress impacts your diet

Stress increases the demands of the body, impacting the use of the body’s nutrients stores in several ways. In reverse, the food you eat can either support the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response and buffer stress, or exacerbate feelings of stress and overwhelm.

  • Stress raises our metabolic needs for energy, while simultaneously increasing the excretion of our nutrient stores. This means that not only will your energy needs increase, but if you’re not already eating enough stress-buffering nutrients – your available stores may become rapidly depleted, and you could become deficient in key nutrients .
  • Food can be a powerful antidote to stress. From aiding in the production of calming neurotransmitters to directly supporting the nervous system, the nutrients you eat can lay the foundation of your stress response.
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Balance your blood sugar

The link between blood sugar levels and stress is an intricate one, but to make a connection between the two – we need to understand the hormones at play. Insulin is a hormone that helps bring glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into our cells. The stress response encourages the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which decreases insulin secretion. Without the proper production and secretion of insulin, sugar remains in the bloodstream and causes blood sugar levels to become imbalanced.

In reverse, the body’s stress response can be triggered by low or high levels of blood sugar. The bottom line – if you want to manage stress, focus on balancing your blood sugar levels.

Easy ways to help balance your blood sugar levels:

Eat carbohydrates with a source of protein or healthy fats

  • Glucose spikes occur when increased amounts of glucose enter the bloodstream too quickly, which can happen when there are no other macronutrients present to ‘buffer’ the increase in glucose from carbohydrates. Pairing carbohydrate rich foods with a good quality source of protein can help to steady the release of glucose into the bloodstream.

Don’t let your blood sugar levels get too low

  • Low blood sugar levels can be caused by infrequent meals or skipping them all together, under-fueling exercise and stress. By managing stress, reducing caffeine and eating regular protein rich meals you can help prevent your blood sugar from dipping too low.

Eat fatty fish

The benefits of taking omega-3 fatty acids have been extensively explored, with studies showing that these fatty acids can support brain health and development, skin, mood, joints and neurological function. There are many different variations of omega-3 fatty acids, but the most important ones to remember are EPA, DHA and ALA (which the body converts into EPA and DHA).


EPA and DHA have been studied for their potential calming effects and research shows that these two nutrients may have the ability to help the body adapt to changes, suggesting that they may increase resilience to stress. Both EPA and DHA are commonly found in fatty fish and seafood, while ALA can be found in plant foods like chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts.

Look after your gut

The gut regulates the stress response and impacts our mood and cognitive function in many ways. Metabolites that are created from our gut microbiome include neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA that support mood, as well as short chain fatty acids that support the structure of the blood brain barrier. The gut plays a significant role in mitigating stress and supporting mental health, and focusing on your gut function can do wonders when it comes to increasing your resilience to stress. Furthermore, periods of stress and overwhelm can also impact how our gut functions and feels – it’s a two-way street!

Gut health tips:

  • Reduce processed foods and refined sugars
  • Increase fiber rich foods (fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains)
  • Eat more fermented foods (kimchi and sauerkraut)
  • Include amino acids like glycine and glutamine to your supplement routine to support the gut lining

Take a magnesium supplement

It’s known as ‘nature’s relaxation mineral’, and for good reason! Magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in the body, and it plays a crucial role in the function of the nervous system (particularly, the parasympathetic nervous system – or the ‘rest and digest’ arm of the nervous system).

  • Magnesium’s calming effect is thought to be connected to its ability to support serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, while also influencing GABA, our calming neurotransmitter.
  • Low levels of magnesium have been shown to increase the body’s susceptibility to stress, and ongoing stress can deplete magnesium stores.

Supplement with more antioxidants

Ongoing stress can create a ripple effect that reaches even the smallest parts of the body, altering how the body functions at a cellular level. If you’re repeatedly exposed to events or emotions that activate your stress response, your whole body can feel the impact – including your cells.

The stress response increases the demands of your body and places a heavy burden on mitochondria to generate more energy. If you’re constantly in a state of fight or flight, your mitochondria may struggle to meet these increased energy demands – which can impact the body’s ability to support free radical balance. Antioxidants play a crucial role in the function of our nervous system, and by reducing oxidative damage, antioxidants can support a healthy stress response.

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Consider taking adaptogens

Adaptogens are a class of herbs that have traditionally been used to support the regulation of the body. As the name suggests, adaptogens are said to help the body ‘adapt’ to stress and support the regulation of the HPA-axis (aka your stress response). By supporting the body’s resistance to physical and emotional stress, adaptogens may reduce the impact of stress on the body – focusing on the effects of cortisol and acting as a buffer for stress.

Help regulate your stress response with adaptogens:

You can find Rhodiola and Ashwagandha in combination with other key ingredients, Vitamin D and Maritime Pine in MitoQ adrenal +balance.

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