How diet affects stress

How diet affects stress

How diet affects stress

How diet affects stress 1792 1024 Paterakis Michalis
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Almost 60% of Greeks report experiencing moderate to high levels of stress, and you probably know the pressure that comes with a demanding lifestyle. But did you know that your diet can significantly affect how you deal with stress?

By choosing foods with high nutrient content you can stabilize your blood sugar and boost your mood. Incorporating omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish such as salmon, can support brain health and reduce stress.

What anxiety means from a psychoanalytical point of view

From a psychoanalytic point of view, anxiety is a multifaceted psychological phenomenon closely related to unconscious conflicts and the interaction between the different components of the mind. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, identified anxiety as a signal of unresolved conflicts between the  id , the ego  and the  superego.


That is the most primitive and instinctual part of the psyche, representing innate biological drives and desires. It operates on the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification and pleasure without concern for consequences. It is impulsive, irrational and unconscious, driving basic instincts such as hunger, thirst and sexual desires.


The ego is reality-oriented that develops in response to the demands of the external world. It operates on the principle of reality, aiming to satisfy the ego’s desires in a socially acceptable and realistic way. The ego acts as a mediator between the impulsive id and the moralistic superego, balancing immediate needs with the constraints of reality.


The superego represents internalized moral standards, social norms, and the individual’s sense of right and wrong. It develops through the internalization of parental and social values during the process of socialization. The superego acts as a moral guide, imposing moral standards and imposing feelings of guilt or shame when the individual deviates from these standards.

According to psychoanalytic theory, anxiety serves as a defense mechanism that the ego uses to manage the tension between the conflicting demands of id and the superego. The mind’s attempts to deal with these conflicts can lead to heightened states of anxiety. Unresolved issues from early psychosexual development, such as the oedipal complex, are also thought to influence the formation of anxiety patterns later in life.

By gaining insight into the underlying causes of anxiety, individuals can work towards resolving underlying conflicts and developing more adaptive coping mechanisms.

In summary, from a psychoanalytic perspective, anxiety is viewed as a complex reaction to internal conflicts and as a signal of unresolved psychological tensions. Understanding and addressing these underlying conflicts form the basis of psychoanalytic interventions aimed at alleviating anxiety and promoting psychological well-being.

Understanding stress in nutrition

Your food choices can significantly affect your stress levels, with many people tending to reach for sugary foods during times of high stress. However, these quick fixes may not serve you well in the long run.

A balanced diet can reduce the impact that stress has on your body. For example, omega fatty acids found in fish like salmon and flaxseeds are known to support brain health and can help reduce your body’s response to stress.

The importance of psychotherapy in the management of anxiety

Psychotherapy, or counseling, can be beneficial in managing anxiety. Stress has a significant impact on both mental and physical well-being and psychotherapy addresses the underlying psychological factors that contribute to this.

Psychotherapy provides a safe space for individuals to explore and understand the sources of their distress. Identifying specific stressors is crucial to developing effective coping strategies.

Therapists can help individuals challenge and reframe negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety. This cognitive restructuring can lead to more adaptive and healthy ways of thinking, reducing overall stress levels.

Learning how to manage emotions is a key component of many psychotherapy approaches. Developing emotional regulation skills helps individuals cope with stress in a more constructive way, preventing negative effects on physical health.

Psychotherapy often involves teaching practical strategies for managing stress, such as time management, problem solving, and relaxation techniques.

Therapists often work with clients to develop individualized self-care routines. Engaging in activities that promote relaxation and well-being can counteract the negative effects of stress on physical health.

It is important to note that the effectiveness of psychotherapy may vary depending on individual factors, the specific type of treatment used, and the nature of the stressors involved.

Foods that fight stress hormones

Incorporating certain foods into your diet can instantly neutralize stress hormones, allowing you to be calmer and more balanced.

High-fiber foods like oatmeal, beans, and fruit do wonders for your gut health, which is inextricably linked to mood regulation.

Rich in omega-3s, fish oil from fatty fish like salmon or mackerel supports brain function and can help regulate emotional swings caused by stress hormones. Vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant found in sunflower seeds and almonds, can also protect your cells from acute stress.

Don’t overlook your vegetables, which are full of carotenoids and B vitamins. These nutrients are vital for the formation of neurotransmitters like serotonin, which promote a sense of well-being. Spinach, for example, not only deals with stress hormones, but also provides magnesium, a mineral essential for relaxation.

The role of complex carbohydrates

Many complex carbohydrates play a key role in managing stress, providing a slow and steady release of energy that helps keep your mood stable. When you incorporate whole-wheat breads, pastas, and traditional oatmeal into your diet, you’re choosing resources that support a healthy diet. These complex carbohydrates have complex relationships with your body’s functions, particularly in how they affect the production of serotonin—a key neurotransmitter that promotes feelings of well-being and relaxation.

Unlike the simple carbohydrates found in sweets and soft drinks, which can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar and serotonin levels and then a rapid drop, complex carbohydrates ensure a more balanced release. This can prevent mood swings and anxiety reactions associated with fluctuating blood sugar levels. By choosing these healthy options, you not only avoid the temporary relief and subsequent crash of fatty foods and simple sugars, but you also promote a lasting sense of calm and focus.

Limiting simple carbohydrates

Studies show that while simple carbohydrates like sweets and sodas may give you a quick dose of pleasure, they are not your allies in the battle against chronic stress. When you indulge in these foods, your blood sugar levels rise, leading to a temporary increase in serotonin—a feel-good chemical. However, this surge is temporary. In the immediate aftermath, you’re likely to experience a collapse in energy and mood, which can exacerbate stress rather than relieve it.

Instead, by focusing on a diet that limits simple carbohydrates, you choose to support your mental health with more stable sources of energy. The complex carbohydrates found in whole-wheat breads and pastas provide a more gradual release of sugar into your blood, helping to maintain a steady mood.

Vitamins that limit the effects of stress

You will find that certain vitamins play a critical role in reducing stress in your body. Chief among these are omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in abundance in fish such as salmon. These unsaturated fats not only prevent stress hormones from flaring up, but also support heart health and improve sleep quality.

Incorporating foods rich in vitamin E, such as sunflower seeds and avocados, is another way to combat the negative effects of stress. Vitamin E helps with blood flow and brain health, which are often compromised when you’re under chronic stress. By making these foods a regular part of your diet, you equip your body with the nutrients it needs to withstand the stresses of everyday life.

Herbal Remedies to Reduce Anxiety

Often, incorporating herbal remedies such as chamomile or valerian root into your diet can significantly reduce anxiety symptoms. These natural aids serve as gentle allies in stress management, directly addressing your perceived anxiety and helping to foster a sense of calm.

Chamomile, for example, isn’t just for enjoying a relaxing cup of tea—it’s also effective in reducing the effects of stress. It works by promoting relaxation and may even help you sleep better.

Valerian root is another herbal remedy known to reduce anxiety. The properties are especially helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed. By including valerian root in your routine, possibly as a tea or supplement, you are taking a proactive step toward controlling your stress levels.

Night snacks for better sleep

Choosing the right nighttime snacks can significantly improve the quality of your sleep, helping you manage stress more effectively. Choose snacks that are high in complex carbohydrates. Whole wheat breads and pastas not only fill you up, they also increase serotonin. Avoid simple carbohydrates such as sweets and soft drinks – they may taste tempting, but their health effects, especially blood sugar spikes, can disrupt your sleep.

Incorporate magnesium-rich foods, such as nuts, into your evening routine. They don’t just satisfy your hunger – they help reduce tension in your body, allowing it to calm down and sleep better.

Contact the psychologist psychotherapist

A psychotherapist acts as an ally, providing a safe and non-judgmental space for you to explore the complexities of your thoughts, feelings and experiences. Whether you are facing specific challenges, are in transition in your life, or are simply seeking personal growth, a psychotherapist can provide you with valuable insights, coping strategies, and support tailored to your unique needs.

Investing in your mental well-being is an act of self-care that reflects positively on all aspects of your life. Take the first step today – see a psychotherapist and begin a journey of self-awareness, resilience and empowerment.

Your mental health matters and with the guidance of a qualified professional, you can face challenges, build resilience and create a more meaningful and balanced life. Working with a qualified mental health professional can help tailor the approach to individual needs and circumstances.

In conclusion

In closing, you learned that what you eat can be either a source of stress or a shield against it. Embrace foods rich in vitamin C, omega-3s, and complex carbohydrates to keep stress hormones in check. Remember that limiting simple sugars is vital for emotional balance.

Consider herbal teas to soothe anxiety and choose smart snacks that promote sleep. Don’t forget that if you combine your diet with regular exercise, the benefits are magnified.


*Republication of the article without the written permission of the author is prohibited.

The process of psychotherapy requires commitment, dedication and is only for those who are serious about changing their lives. If you are considering embarking on this journey, call me at 211 71 51 801 to make an appointment and let’s see together how I can help you.

Michael Paterakis

Psychologist Psychotherapist

37 Karneadou Street, Kolonaki

I accept By appointment

Tel: 211 7151 801


    Πατεράκης Μιχάλης
    Ψυχολόγος Αθήνα


      Psychologist Athens