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Food for the nerves: food against stress

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 322 views

Do you feel stressed and drained? Then it ‘s time for nerve food . With the right foods, you can simply eat away stress. We’ll tell you what they are and why healthy nutrition is particularly important in turbulent times.

Food for the nerves: How are stress and nutrition related?

About 80 percent of people who suffer from stress change their eating habits. They either become “stress eaters” or “stress hungerers”. In turbulent times, it is particularly important to eat a balanced diet. The body then consumes nutrients such as vitamins , minerals and proteins particularly quickly.

It is particularly important for the brain that the body has enough nutrients available . It obtains energy (glucose) from food and produces messenger substances (neurotransmitters) from amino acids (protein building blocks). They are elementary for thinking, memory and receptivity.

If the brain does not get enough nutrients, the following effects occur:

  • concentration and memory problems
  • Depression
  • mood change
  • confusion

It is therefore important that you keep replenishing your depots with healthy snacks so that you can face the challenges of everyday life with new energy. There are special foods (brain foods) that contain important precursors of so-called neurotransmitters. These are important for the formation of messenger substances in the brain and thus influence concentration, mood and memory. This brain food includes chickpeas, for example.

The benefits of certain foods against stress have only been little researched so far, but some findings can be recorded, which we will explain in more detail in the following text.

Food for the nerves: Which nutrients are important in times of stress?

There are several nutrients that you need most when you are stressed. This includes:


Complex carbohydrate carriers (whole grain products, quinoa, oatmeal, legumes) are particularly important in times of stress. The brain needs them for fuel in order to work. They are digested slowly, keep you full for a long time and do not allow the blood sugar level to rise too quickly.

Those who use complex carbohydrates also increase the build-up of the happiness hormone serotonin in the body. A plate of wholemeal pasta and a fresh tomato sauce is therefore perfect if you need to perform at your best in the office.

However, beware of simple carbohydrates, such as those found in sugar or white flour. They increase insulin levels, burn off quickly and lead to cravings. In addition, the cortisol level increases. Cortisol is a stress hormone that provides the body with energy. In the short term, cortisol makes you perform better, but a chronically elevated cortisol level is harmful to your health.

Learn more about carbohydrates here .


Not only with the carbohydrates, but also with the fats, it is important to pay attention to which fats you eat exactly. Heavy meals with saturated fatty acids like those found in meat or butter weaken the ability to concentrate because the blood is needed in the digestive tract.

However, there are fatty acids that are important for building cells and hormones, among other things. These include, above all, the omega-3 fatty acids . They have a positive effect on the psyche . Since the body cannot produce them itself, they have to be ingested through food. They are mainly found in oily fish such as salmon. Alternatively, linseed, walnut or rapeseed oil are suitable.

You can find out more about fats here .


The role of proteins in stress is controversial. Cortisol levels increase after a high-protein meal. Animal protein also contains fatty acids that promote inflammation in the body.

However, proteins are made up of amino acids, which are important for the brain. If you are under prolonged stress, it is best to combine animal and vegetable protein. Combinations of potatoes and eggs and milk with flour, for example, are well suited.

If you don’t consume enough protein, you risk a lack of the amino acid L-tryptophan. It is important for the formation of serotonin and is found in cheese, fish, eggs, nuts and legumes, among other things.

You can find out more about protein-containing foods here .


If you are energized, the hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline are released in the body. They irritate the nerve cells. Magnesium blocks this process. But only if there is enough of it in the body. The need for magnesium is also increased because excretion through the urine is greater in stressful situations.

A typical magnesium deficiency manifests itself, among other things, in muscle cramps as well as insomnia and lack of concentration. Magnesium is found in broccoli , kale, legumes or potatoes.


Stress often increases the need for vitamins. Typical features include:

  • Vitamin C strengthens the immune system.
  • B vitamins are important for the functioning of the nervous system.
  • Vitamin E protects the cells from possible stress effects.
  • Vitamin A is considered to be a very good scavenger of free radicals, which often occur in the body during stress. It is therefore an antioxidant and protects nerves and blood vessels .

Vitamin C can be found in rose hips, peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, parsley, broccoli and tomatoes. Lots of vitamin E are provided by whole grain and dairy products as well as wheat oil. Stock up on vitamin B12 reserves with eggs and mackerel. Liver, milk and sea fish are rich in vitamin A.


The brain is about 80 percent water . If you don’t drink enough fluids, your body will quickly become dehydrated. Signs are concentration disorders, decreasing ability to react and learn, as well as slight headaches and tiredness. At least 1.5 liters of water or unsweetened herbal teas daily are a good guideline.

Learn more about drinking water here .

Nerve food: The best foods!

We have put together a selection of the best foods to fill up your nutrient depots during stressful times.


Macha tea is high in L-theanine, a protein-free amino acid with powerful stress-relieving properties. The advantage of this type of green tea: the tea leaves grow in the shade, which increases the L-theanine content.

Studies show that matcha tea can reduce stress when it is high in L-theanine and low in caffeine .

Green vegetables

Spinach, lamb’s lettuce or broccoli contain plenty of vitamins C and E. Swiss chard is rich in magnesium and vitamin A.

When preparing Swiss chard, keep in mind that winter vegetables such as spinach contain oxalic acid. Therefore, eat the vegetables as fresh as possible. If you boil or boil it to reduce the oxalic acid content, discard the water afterwards.


Oily fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel or tuna are particularly rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. A study from Berlin shows that subjects who took omega-3 fatty acids for six months performed significantly better on a memory task.


Eggs are rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants needed for a healthy stress response. They also contain choline, a nutrient found in large amounts in only a few foods. Choline has been shown to play an important role in brain health and may protect against stress.


Legumes contain magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, zinc , selenium , manganese and copper. They’re also high in L-tryptophan, which the body needs to produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters. Lentils, chickpeas, beans and the like also keep the blood sugar level constant with their complex carbohydrates.

You can find out more about legumes here .


Nuts contain several important nutrients for the brain. They contain omega-3 fatty acids and L-tryptophan. They are also rich in magnesium and B vitamins. Almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts also contain vitamin E, antioxidants and omega-6 fatty acids , which are important for concentration.

Is chocolate good for your nerves?

Your nerves are at the end and you need new energy immediately? In such cases, a “first-aid kit” made of chocolate, cake and gummy bears has an immediate effect. The sugar it contains quickly gets into the blood and stimulates the production of insulin, which in turn boosts the production of the happiness hormone serotonin. However, that is not healthy. The effect also only lasts for a short time and a craving for sweets comes up again.

According to various studies, dark chocolate with a high cocoa content is better suited. Cocoa contains so-called flavonoids, which belong to the so-called secondary plant substances.

A study from Switzerland showed that participants who ate chocolate with flavonoids had lower increases in the adrenal stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline compared to the placebo group. In addition, according to a study from Italy, attention and the processing speed of memory improve after consuming dark chocolate.

Don’t like dark chocolate? Then sunflower seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds are also suitable. Dried fruits such as dates, figs and prunes also have a positive effect on the mind and soul. All of these snacks contain either magnesium, vitamin C or E. Sea buckthorn and grapefruit juice or rosehip tea go well with them as a thirst quencher with an anti-stress factor.

Food for the nerves: tips against stress

  • Take your time with the food and enjoy it.
  • Mix up your meals with variety and avoid fast food.
  • Eat regularly to avoid cravings.
  • Instead of rewarding yourself with food, indulge in your favorite song or go for a walk.
  • If you feel a craving for sweets, it is better to grab an apple or berries.
  • If you feel yourself getting stressed, consciously take a break and take a deep breath.
  • If you are restless, switch off sources of noise such as the radio or telephone.

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