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The Relationship between Stress & Nutrition

older couple sitting at a table, laughing and smiling while eating pasta, salad, and drinking wine

As we age, it becomes increasingly important to prioritize our well-being, and this includes understanding the relationship between stress and nutrition.

As older adults, we often face unique challenges that can contribute to elevated stress levels, like health concerns, financial worries, social isolation, loneliness, etc.

This stress can significantly impact our eating patterns and food choices. During times of stress, we may experience changes in appetite, leading to overeating or undereating.

The release of cortisol, the stress hormone, can trigger cravings for high-calorie, sugary, and fatty foods as a way to seek comfort. This can result in poor nutrition, weight gain, and potential health issues.


Understanding How Nutrition Correlates to Stress

Nutrition plays a crucial role in modulating the body's stress response. A well-balanced diet rich in essential nutrients supports the body's ability to cope with stress, regulating cortisol levels and promoting overall resilience.

Adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to improved mental well-being and a reduced risk of stress-related conditions. Adopting healthy eating habits can contribute to better stress management and overall well-being.


Nutritional Deficiencies and Stress

Chronic stress can deplete essential nutrients in our bodies. High cortisol levels, often associated with stress, can interfere with the absorption and utilization of certain nutrients like Vitamins C, B complex, and magnesium. These nutrients are vital for maintaining optimal brain function and supporting the production of neurotransmitters that regulate mood and promote relaxation.


Stress-Relieving Nutrients

Fortunately, adopting a balanced, nutrient-rich diet can help counteract the negative effects of stress. Here are some key nutrients that have been linked to stress reduction:


  • Complex Carbohydrates: Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables provide a steady release of glucose, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels and maintain energy levels. They also promote the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation and feelings of well-being.


  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fatty fish (such as salmon and sardines), walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation and support brain health.


  • B Vitamins: B vitamins, including folate, B6, and B12, play a crucial role in neurotransmitter synthesis and energy production. Good sources include leafy greens, legumes, eggs, and lean meats.


  • Magnesium: Magnesium is a mineral that supports muscle and nerve function, promotes relaxation, and helps regulate cortisol levels. Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.


  • Antioxidants: Stress can increase oxidative stress in the body, leading to cell damage. Antioxidant-rich foods like berries, colorful fruits, and vegetables help combat oxidative stress and protect against its harmful effects.


As we navigate the demands of daily life, it is crucial to recognize the profound impact of stress on our well-being and take proactive steps to manage it effectively. By prioritizing a nutrient-dense diet that includes complex carbohydrates, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, magnesium, and antioxidants, we can support our body's natural stress response mechanisms.

**Talk with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet.


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