Deadlines. Bills. Hardly a moment to slow down.

When we feel stress, we often grab a handful of M & M’s from the office candy jar or order a pizza with all the toppings. Instead, try these foods, which have a biochemical reaction that reduces our body’s reaction to stress.

Green Leafy Vegetables

According to Heather Mangieri RDN and spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, green leafy vegetables like spinach contain folate, a dopamine producer. Dopamine can have a calming effect. In numerous studies with middle aged to elderly and college students, people who ate the most folate had a lower risk of depression symptoms and also felt calmer or happier.

Replace lettuce with kale or spinach in your salad!

Turkey breast

The amino acid tryptophan in turkey and other protein-containing foods helps produce serotonin, which regulates hunger and happiness. On its own, tryptophan may have a calming effect. Are you a vegetarian? Other foods high in tryptophan include nuts, seeds, tofu, fish, lentils, oats, beans, and eggs.


Stress may cause you to grab for a donut or large plate of pasta. According to MIT research, carbs can help the brain produce serotonin. Instead of reaching for a pastry or digging into that bag of chips, try complex carbs like oatmeal, which won’t cause a spike in blood sugar.


The probiotics found in live active cultures may reduce brain activity that handles emotions and stress. Yogurt also includes calcium and protein, which may help reduce the impact of stress. Watch out for sugar added varieties.


Stress increases production of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. The Omega-3 fatty acids in salmon have anti-inflammatory properties the may help counteract the effects of these stress hormones. Be sure to look for wild salmon. Just one three-ounce serving can have more than 2,000 mg. of Omega-3s or double the dose recommended by the American Heart Association for people with heart disease.


Blueberries are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients that improve your body’s reaction to stress and may fight free radicals that result from stress.

Dark Chocolate

A square of dark chocolate (70% cocoa) can reduce stress hormones including cortisol. The antioxidants may also cause blood vessel walls to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. Dark chocolate has natural substances that create a feeling similar to being in love!