Foods to Calm Holiday Stress

| WRITTEN BY: Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN

This article originally appeared on Fox News Health.

Holidays are one of the most special— and stressful— times of year. The magic of the holidays is all too often coupled with anxiety, sleep deprivation, and a struggle to meet work and family obligations.

The next time you feel holiday stress creep up, eat your way calm by incorporating these six foods in your diet:


Comfort foods with complex carbohydrates, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, can boost levels of serotonin, a feel-good hormone that helps you relax. When you have the time, go for the thick-cut, old fashioned (steel-cut) oats that require cooking instead of instant oatmeal — coarse oats are higher in fiber and minimally processed so they take longer to digest, a definite advantage for regulating mood. 

Fatty Fish

Fatty fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help prevent surges in stress hormones and protect against heart disease and depression. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association has endorsed the fatty acids in fish as an effective part of depression treatment. Wild fish, such as salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna, tilapia, catfish, and cod, are low in mercury and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. 

Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits pack a double punch when it comes to defusing stress. Not only are citrus fruits— like oranges and grapefruits— rich in the stress-busting antioxidant vitamin C, they are also a good source of glutathione. Glutathione protects the body from free radicals by fortifying immune health and boosting antioxidant protection. When you’re stressed, your immune system is compromised, which can lead to more stress. 

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, and too little magnesium may trigger headaches and fatigue, worsening the effects of stress. The mineral also helps regulate the stress hormone cortisol, to promote feelings of wellbeing. A one-ounce serving (about a handful) of pumpkin seeds provides 19 percent of your daily requirement for the mineral. You can eat pumpkin seeds whole, shells and all— in fact, the shells provide extra fiber. 


Blueberries are a simple and tasty way to stay calm and healthy over the holidays. These powerful berries are an excellent source of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps relieve stress. Studies suggest that vitamin C can curb levels of stress hormones while strengthening the immune system. In one study of people with high blood pressure, when participants took vitamin C before a stressful task their blood pressure and levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) returned to normal more quickly. 

Herbal Teas

Next time you feel stressed, skip the caffeine jitters and go for an herbal tea. Herbal teas are naturally caffeine-free and many of them contain a range of calming components. Chamomile, mint, barley tea, passionflower, and valerian root are all herbal teas shown to have calming effects. However, since some of these teas can be pretty powerful, such as valerian root, talk to your doctor to see what might work best to relieve your symptoms.


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