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First Psychology – The Best Foods for Managing Stress

Posted: 12th April 2022

It goes without saying that we need food to survive but what we eat also plays a significant role in both our physical and mental health. Our bodies need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals found in nutritious foods to ensure our brain and body function properly.

Not only does the food that we eat impact our mood, which can also be a trigger for stress and other mental health issues, but when we’re suffering from stress it can also affect our food choices. It’s important that we make the correct food choices to relieve any symptoms of stress.

These are some of the reasons why we might not always opt for the best types of food:
• Busy lifestyles mean we have less time to prepare and cook nutritious meals and the temptation to snack on unhealthy foods or buy takeaways and convenience foods becomes much greater.
• A lack of understanding about nutritious food and its benefits means we might not always make the right meal choices.
• Mental or physical illness can prevent us from prioritising our health.
• When we’re feeling stressed, we tend to eat foods that are comforting and although they might give us a short-term boost, they can actually exacerbate our symptoms.

To maintain optimum mental wellbeing and ease any symptoms of stress, there are certain foods that you should keep to a minimum:
• Sugars and carbohydrates that are found in chocolate, biscuits, sweets, cakes and sugary drinks can increase blood sugar levels and intensify stress and anxiety.
• Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and energy drinks are stimulants that can make you feel even more anxious or stressed.
• Alcohol not only acts as a depressant, but it can also affect our sleep.
• Processed foods are packed with sugar, fat and salt which can lead to heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure as well as impacting our mental health.

Foods to manage stress
Natural foods that are packed with minerals and vitamins are great for combatting symptoms of stress and boosting mood. Also, try and eat foods that will support your adrenal glands – these glands work extra hard when we’re stressed so supporting them can help keep you balanced.
• Vitamin C which is found in most fresh fruit and vegetables is stored in the adrenal gland and used to make cortisol (a hormone produced by the body when we’re stressed).
• Magnesium is an important mineral that metabolises cortisol and helps both the mind and body to relax. It can become depleted when we’re stressed and this can lead to symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, and make us more susceptible to stress. Magnesium-rich foods include: bananas, spinach, avocados, broccoli, dark chocolate, and pumpkin seeds.
• B-vitamins can help support the adrenal cortex and hormone production. Good sources include dark leafy vegetables such as kale and Savoy cabbage, wholegrain, nuts and seeds.
• Protein is present in many foods and it helps keep us full for longer. It is therefore essential for controlling blood sugar levels and preventing mood swings which can stress and deplete our body. Protein rich foods include: eggs, lentils, almonds, chicken, peanuts, turkey, quinoa, tuna and salmon.

Further reading

You can find out more about dietary changes that can provide relief from stress in this article by registered nutritionist, Jo Lewin >
For more about stress and how to manage it, download our free pdf booklet >

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