Home > NUTRITION > Diet & Disease > Diet and Stress

Diet and Stress

Practicing a Balanced Diet

“We are what we eat”. Having a balance diet could help in preventing stress. Being overstressed could reduce energy, weakens our memory, immune system and concentration, disrupt mood, and affect all organs and body functions. With the intake of balance meals, healthy wellbeing could be maintained while ensuring a stable mental and physical health. The balance diet has to be based on the food pyramid.

Diet and Stress

  1. Stress could result in the loss or reduction of nutrients such as vitamin C, B complex, magnesium and calcium.
  2. During stressful time, we have a tendency to;
    1. Experience food emotional problem where we eat when we are not hungry or choose unhealthy food.
    2. Skip main meals especially breakfast and feel extreme hunger pangs during lunch, of which there is a tendency to take unhealthy food / large meal.
    3. Eat foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.
    4. Take unhealthy snacks such as junk food.
    5. Opt for easily available fast food that requires no preparation.

The Need for a Balanced Diet

  1. A balanced diet provides nutrients and energy needed for the body to handle stress.
  2. A complete diet that offers variations would ensure that our body gets all the necessary nutrients.

Food That Helps To Reduce Stress

Among the food that helps in reducing stress:

  1. Nuts such as almonds, pistachios, and walnuts, which are rich in Vitamin B2, Vitamin E, magnesium and zinc. Vitamin B2 aids in the secretion of serotonin, the hormone that is responsible for the feeling of happiness. Zinc is one of the components needed to combat stress while Vitamin E is effective in preventing diseases caused by stress such as heart diseases.
  2. Fish, especially deep sea fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardine, and freshwater fish such as patin and haruan, are high in Omega 3, which assists in stabilising stress (cortisol hormone).
  3. Milk is rich in antioxidants and contains high calcium to aid in eliminating free radicals that are associated with stress.
  4. Pumpkin and guava are rich in Vitamin C. Prolonged stress can lead to reduction of Vitamin C storage in the body, which may lead to bleeding gums.
  5. Wholegrains such as wholemeal bread, breakfast cereal, brown rice and oats contain complex carbohydrate that serve to stimulate the production of serotonin hormone (a chemical substance that releases the happy feeling in the brain). Wholegrains that are rich in Vitamin B can increase energy and reduce lethargy.
  6. The intake of fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta carotene assists in reducing the effects of free radicals. Good sources of Vitamin C are guava, broccoli and orange. Good sources of Vitamin E are papaya, spinach and olive while food that are rich in beta carotene includes sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin.
  7. Dried apricot is especially rich in magnesium and it is nutritionally good as a muscle relaxant. Magnesium also functions to help stress hormones regulation.

Tips for Avoiding Stress through a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

  1. Consistent eating pattern
    Small frequent meals is encouraged, while the three main meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) are necessary. A healthy diet starts with a great breakfast.
  2. Choose a balanced diet
    A balanced diet which consists of a variety of food must be based on the food pyramid.
  3. Reduce caffeine intake
    Caffeine intake such as tea and coffee is recommended not exceeding 2 cups a day. Drink plenty of plain water. Excessive intake of caffeine will increase stress level and reduce concentration and effectiveness in performing work and also affect the quality of sleep.
  4. Reduce salt intake
    Excessive intake of salt can cause high blood pressure. Reduce the intake of food that is high in salt such as fast food, seasoning powder, canned food, salted fish, salted egg and pickles.
  5. Reduce sugar intake
    A high intake of sugar will reduce the immune system’s capacity to manage stress. Besides that, it also increase the sugar level in the blood, which may lead to obesity and increase insulin resistance.
  6. Alcohol abstinence
    Gradual reduction of alcohol consumption would maintain body balance and avoid stress.
  7. Sufficient vitamins and minerals through a balanced diet
    Sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals could increase body balance and avoid stress. Fresh fruits and vegetables are rich source of vitamins and minerals.
  8. Consumption of food containing probiotics
    Consumption of food containing lactobacillus acidhophitis could prevent the growth of pathogenic bacteria and induce immune system, thus increase overall body protection against stress.
  9. Maintain body weight
    Maintaining ideal body weight and performing physical activities for at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes can create inner peace and actively refresh the body and mind.
  10. Quit smoking
    Nicotine in cigarettes gives short term feeling of relaxation but the toxin in the cigarette smoke can increase heartbeat and stress level.


  1. Stress and Diet by Carolyn Classic-Kohn, MS,RD
  2. Pemakanan Pendekatan Islam dan Sains oleh Che Wan Jasimah Wan Mohamed Radzi
  3. Food That Harm Food That Heal by Readers Digest
  4. Mindful Eating Exercises – Strategies for Mindful Eating by Elizabeth Scott, M.S.,About.com Guide
  5. Penjagaan Kesihatan Menurut Pandangan Perubatan dan Islam
  6. Less Stres by Dr Julian Melgosa
Last Reviewed : 28 August 2020
Writer : Suriyanti binti Muhi
Reviewer : Nik Mahani binti Nik Mahmood