10 Stress-Busting Superfoods That'll Boost Your Mood

10 Stress-Busting Superfoods That'll Boost Your Mood

It’s 8:30 pm on a Tuesday, and you’re on a deadline. It’s times like this when unhealthy snacks feel like a convenient escape from the added pressure around you. But there are superfoods that may provide a pick-me-up in stressful situations — many of which are easy, portable snacks.

When you dig into that vending machine donut, “your blood sugar will likely soar, causing your insulin to kick in (to lower it),” says Openfit Nutrition Expert Sara Ryba, R.D., C.D.N. “You’ll find yourself feeling tired and sluggish (and potentially hungry), which obviously impacts your mood and your ability to function at your best.”

According to Ryba, a common response to sluggishness is another sugary snack, which starts a rollercoaster of blood-sugar highs and lows.

Some foods are better equipped to help you deal with the effects of stress while staying off the roller coaster. Here are some “superfoods” to consider the next time life gives you lemons.

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1. Green Leafy Vegetables

leafy greens on table | superfoods that help with stress

One study found that college students felt happier and calmer after consuming fruits and vegetables.

Swiss chardspinachcollard greens, and other slightly bitter lettuce leaves contain phytonutrients, as well as fiber, calcium, and folate (vitamin B9), which may provide health benefits.


2. Turkey Breast

One of our 20 best sources of protein, turkey breast transcends holidays as an everyday superfood.

Aside from leading to a fantastic Thanksgiving nap, a 2019 study suggests the tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey, might aid our ability to cope with a temporary stressful situation.


3. Salmon

Salmon is one of the fish richest in omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients help support the brain, as well as cardiovascular health.

The high-quality protein mixed with the healthy fat that salmon contains often leads to increased feelings of satiety and may offer healthy cardiovascular benefits, says Ryba.

The American Heart Association recommends getting at least two servings of fatty fish a week.


4. Seeds

While they can be enjoyed by anyone, seeds are a staple superfood for people on plant-based diets. Seeds, such as chia and hemp, contain fiber and protein, as well as omega-3s.

Seeds are also a versatile ingredient that can be sprinkled on yogurts and salads or made into pudding.


5. Blueberries

basket of blueberries | superfoods that help with stress

There is an all-star lineup of healthy properties in blueberries, including:

  • Phytochemicals (including flavonoids)
  • Soluble fiber
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin C

2017 study suggests that blueberry flavonoids might play a role in supporting a healthy outlook in adolescents and adults.


6. Pistachios

Next time you’re having a bad day, snack on pistachios. The act of removing those little shells will slow you down to help you keep from overindulging. But don’t let this tiny obstacle deter you completely — one study suggests that regular pistachio consumption might help support your cardiovascular system.


7. Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate (in moderation, of course) has the ability to help increase endorphin levels.

“Dark chocolate allows you to feel like you’re treating yourself, while likely not taking a negative toll on your overall nutrition plan,” says Ryba. “Since most varieties of dark chocolate contain less sugar than milk chocolate, there is less concern over sugar highs and lows.”

If chocolate alone isn’t enough to dispel your darkest cravings, why not pair it with yogurt?


8. Yogurt

Some evidence has shown consumption of probiotics found in yogurt may impact the emotional response to certain activities. In other studies, probiotics have been known to impact the chemicals in the brain that can relate to mood.


9. Milk

Next time you’re stressed, reach for a glass of milk. One study notes that the vitamin D in milk has shown “statistically significant improvement” in mood.

If dairy isn’t your thing, check out our list of the best milks to find a nutritious beverage that works for you.


10. Cashews

bowl of cashews | superfoods that help with stress

Cashews may help with your outlook. The nuts have a high concentration of zinc, a deficiency of which may be linked to mood.


Other Superfoods

Here’s a list of other superfoods to enjoy as a snack or with the foods mentioned above.


What to Do if Something’s Wrong

Eating healthy can do wonders for your mood, but sometimes our problems transcend simple blood-sugar level swings. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of depression and contact a doctor or mental health professional.