5 Stress-busting foods from the Mediterranean diet you need to try

Stress seems to be an almost universal part of modern life. Whether it stems from work, relationships, or the daily news, finding effective ways to manage stress is crucial for maintaining both physical and mental health.

Interestingly, what you eat can significantly affect how you feel, including how you cope with stress. This is where the Mediterranean diet, renowned for its health benefits, comes into play.

These elements combine to feed the body and nourish the mind, offering a natural way to help soothe and manage stress levels.

Plus, focusing on fresh, whole foods and preparing and enjoying meals can be a stress-relieving process, encouraging mindfulness and connection with others over shared meals.

What are 5 foods you should eat when you are stressed?

Living with stress feels like carrying a heavy backpack that you can’t take off. It affects mood, energy, and overall health [1]. But what if I told you that what you eat can help lighten that load? 

The Mediterranean diet is well-known for its health advantages and is also rich in foods that reduce stress. Let’s explore five stress-busting foods from the Mediterranean diet that you should try.

1. Fatty fish

Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines are not just delicious; they’re a powerhouse of nutrients that can help take the edge off stress. 

Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, these fish are champions at lowering stress hormones and boosting brain health. 

Imagine feeling a bit more relaxed and clearer-minded just from enjoying a meal. That’s what these omega-3-rich fish can offer.

Here’s how you can add them to your meals:

  • Grill a salmon steak with lemon and herbs for a quick, flavorful dinner.
  • Toss sardines into pasta with a spicy tomato sauce for an easy boost of flavor and nutrients.
  • Bake mackerel with a crust of breadcrumbs and parsley for a crispy finish.

Eating these fish a couple of times a week can naturally support your body’s ability to manage stress. Plus, they’re a key part of the Mediterranean diet, known for promoting overall health and well-being. So, why not treat yourself to a tasty and calming meal?

fatty fish

2. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds, like almonds, walnuts, and flaxseeds, are tiny but mighty tools in your stress-management kit. They’re packed with magnesium, a mineral that helps keep stress in check, and healthy fats that support brain health

Imagine snacking on a handful of these, satisfying your hunger and giving your brain a little love.

Here are a few ways to enjoy them:

  • Sprinkle flaxseeds over your morning oatmeal or yogurt for a nutty flavor and a nutrient boost.
  • Mix almonds and walnuts into your salad for a satisfying crunch.
  • Blend them into smoothies for a thicker, nutrient-rich drink.

Incorporating these nuts and seeds into your diet can be a simple yet effective way to help manage daily stress. 

Plus, nuts and seeds fit perfectly into the Mediterranean diet, known for its heart-healthy and brain-boosting benefits. So next time you’re looking for a snack, reach for these stress-busting goodies.

3. Leafy greens

Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and Swiss chard are not just for salads; they’re a powerhouse of stress-fighting nutrients [2]. These greens are rich in folate, a vitamin that helps your brain produce mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. 

Just imagine eating a dish packed with these greens could help brighten your mood and combat stress naturally.

Here’s how you can easily add them to your diet:

  • Toss spinach into your morning smoothie for a quick nutrient boost.
  • Add kale to soups or stews for a hearty, comforting meal.
  • Sauté Swiss chard with garlic and olive oil for a simple, flavorful side.

Incorporating leafy greens into your meals is a delicious way to help manage stress levels. They seamlessly fit into the Mediterranean diet, offering flavor and various health benefits

So next time you plan your meals, remember to include these stress-busting greens for an extra dose of calm.

4. Whole grains

Whole grains like quinoa, farro, and whole wheat are like reliable friends you can always count on, especially when it comes to managing stress. These grains are packed with fiber, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels and steady your mood throughout the day. 

Plus, they’re rich in B vitamins, which support your brain’s production of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin.

Here’s how you can incorporate them into your meals:

  • Start your day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and nuts.
  • Use quinoa as a base for salads or grain bowls for a satisfying and nutritious meal.
  • Swap out white rice for farro in your favorite recipes for a nutty, chewy texture.

Adding these whole grains to your diet is an easy way to support your overall well-being, and they fit perfectly into the Mediterranean diet. So why not try them and see how they can help you feel more balanced and energized?

5. Yogurt and other fermented foods

Yogurt and other fermented foods are like the superheroes of gut health, working behind the scenes to keep your body in balance and your stress levels in check. 

Packed with probiotics, these foods support the good bacteria in your gut, which play a crucial role in your overall well-being.

Here’s how you can enjoy them:

  • For a filling breakfast, start your day with a creamy bowl of Greek yogurt topped with almonds and honey.
  • Use fermented foods as tasty condiments in your meals, such as sauerkraut or kimchi [3].
  • Enjoy a refreshing glass of kefir as a midday snack or after a workout.

Including yogurt and other fermented foods in your diet nourishes your gut and supports your brain-gut connection, which can positively impact your mood and stress levels. 

Yogurt and other fermented foods are a tasty addition to any meal and fit perfectly into the Mediterranean diet. So go ahead and indulge in these stress-busting treats for a happier, healthier you.

How do I incorporate my Mediterranean diet into my life?

Incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your life is simpler than you might think. Start by making small changes to your daily eating habits, such as swapping out refined grains for whole grains and adding more fruits and vegetables to your meals.

Experiment with new recipes and flavors inspired by Mediterranean cuisine, and don’t forget to enjoy meals with friends and family, Mediterranean-style, for a truly holistic approach to health and well-being.

What you eat is just one piece of the puzzle when managing stress. Lifestyle habits beyond diet also play a significant role in promoting overall well-being and resilience.

Transitioning to a Mediterranean diet can be an enjoyable and sustainable journey. Here are some practical tips to seamlessly incorporate this healthy eating style into your daily life:

Stock up on Mediterranean staples

Fill your pantry with essentials like olive oil, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. These ingredients will make it easier to whip up Mediterranean-inspired meals whenever hunger strikes.

Stock up on Mediterranean staples
Photograph: valeriygoncharukphoto/Envato

Plan balanced meals

Aim to include a variety of foods from all food groups in your meals. Build your plate around vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, with healthy fats like olive oil and avocado as finishing touches.

Experiment with different flavor combinations and cooking techniques to keep things interesting.

Incorporate plant-based proteins like beans, lentils, chickpeas, and tofu into your meals several times a week. These options are not only nutritious but also environmentally friendly and wallet-friendly.

Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques

To reduce stress, make mindfulness and relaxation practices a part of your everyday routine, complementing your Mediterranean diet. Every day, set out a short period to sit still, pay attention to your breathing, and release any stress or anxiety.

To encourage relaxation and enhance your general sense of well-being, try yoga or tai chi. You could feel more at ease and less stressed if you do deep breathing exercises [4].

Find what works best for you and make it a regular part of your routine. By prioritizing these practices, you can develop more serenity and fortitude in the face of adversity.

Practice mindful eating

Slow down and savor your meals, paying attention to flavors, textures, and sensations. Eating mindfully can help you tune into hunger and fullness cues, preventing overeating and promoting greater satisfaction from your meals.

By incorporating these strategies into your daily routine, you can effortlessly embrace the Mediterranean diet and enjoy its numerous health benefits for years. Remember, it’s not about perfection but rather progress and consistency in making healthier choices.

Closing thoughts

Adding Mediterranean diet items that reduce stress to your regular diet can be a tasty and practical approach to enhance your general well-being and control your stress levels.

These nutrient-rich foods offer a natural and holistic approach to combating stress, from fatty fish and nuts to leafy greens and whole grains. But it’s important to remember that, in terms of stress management, eating is only one component of the picture.

Never be afraid to ask for help and advice as you set out on your path to a healthier, more balanced existence. Whether it’s connecting with a friend, seeking advice from a healthcare professional, or exploring new recipes and activities, know that you’re not alone on this path.


Can I still enjoy my favorite comfort foods while following the Mediterranean diet?

Absolutely! While the Mediterranean diet emphasizes certain foods, it’s flexible enough to allow for occasional treats in moderation.

Are there specific foods I should avoid when following the Mediterranean diet?

Processed foods, sugary snacks, and excessive red meat are best limited while embracing the Mediterranean diet’s focus on whole, unprocessed foods.

Will I lose weight on the Mediterranean diet?

Weight loss can be a beneficial side effect of adopting the Mediterranean diet, especially with regular physical activity.

[1] https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-symptoms-signs-and-causes.htm
[2] https://wmmc.com/leaf-greens-the-superfood/
[3] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-fermented-foods
[4] https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/relaxation-techniques-for-stress-relief.htm

The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.