Food has an important effect on the brain and influences our mood and stress response systems. Eating patterns that contain lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fatty fish, lean proteins, and unrefined plant oils (olive and avocado) are good for the body and mind. Optimizing the supply of nutrients for proper brain functioning and physical wellness offers both foundational support as well as a potential adjunctive therapy. Chronic, unrelenting stress has been shown to speed up the depletion of important nutrients and may also impair absorption and metabolism of the precise nutrients needed to mount an appropriate response-- thus, deepening the need for increased intakes and repletion.

Here are a few of the stress-busting nutrients that can help boost up our ability to combat stress, anxiety and depression.

  • The association between vitamin C deficiency and adverse mood and cognitive effects has been known for centuries. Surprisingly, vitamin C deficiency may be more common than is generally thought. Foods high in vitamin C, such as peppers, citrus fruits and other fruits and veggies can help lower blood pressure and the stress hormone, cortisol, during high stress situations. Researchers believe vitamin C is an essential part of stress management.
  • Collectively, there are 8 B-vitamins, which play important roles, and work synergistically, in numerous organ and bodily systems. Growing evidence suggests B vitamins are essential for brain plasticity and play a key role in functions of the central nervous system. Lower levels of B vitamins, especially B1, B6 and B12, are associated with an increased risk of stress, depression and anxiety.
  • Magnesium plays a pivotal role in the health and activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is known as our "rest and digest" system because it works to bring our body back to a calm state. Several studies have shown magnesium to be beneficial for anxiousness and an increased sense of calm, contentment, and resilience.
  • Nutritional Psychology studies show that probiotics and prebiotics promote a healthier balance of gut bacteria, which has shown to help improve anxiety, stress and depression through interactions with the gut-brain axis (GBA). Dysbiosis is highly associated with mood disorders and linked to a disruption of GBA.

PREBIOTICS                                                           PROBIOTICS
(Feed the good bacteria)                                   (Provide good bacteria)
Bananas                                                                       Yogurt / Kefir
Onions artichokes                                                 Sauerkraut
Garlic                                                                            Pickles
Oatmeal                                                                      Kimchi
Asparagus                                                                  Tempeh
Berries                                                                          Kombucha

  • Omega 3 fatty acids play a significant role in mental health and brain health by fighting inflammation maintaining brain structure and reducing brain damage from neurotoxins and pollution. Other evidence indicates that a low intake of marine omega-3s increases the risk for numerous mental health issues, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, depression and suicidal ideation.


American Chemical Society. (1999, August 23). Scientists Say Vitamin C May Alleviate The Body's Response To Stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 22, 2021

Ansari, F., Pourjafar, H., Tabrizi, A., & Homayouni, A. (2020). The Effects of Probiotics and Prebiotics on Mental Disorders: A Review on Depression, Anxiety, Alzheimer, and Autism Spectrum Disorders. Current pharmaceutical biotechnology, 21(7), 555–565. 

Botturi, A., Ciappolino, V., Delvecchio, G., Boscutti, A., Viscardi, B., & Brambilla, P. (2020). The Role and the Effect of Magnesium in Mental Disorders: A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 12(6), 1661.

Butler, M. I., Mörkl, S., Sandhu, K. V., Cryan, J. F., & Dinan, T. G. (2019). The Gut Microbiome and Mental Health: What Should We Tell Our Patients? Canadian journal of psychiatry, 64(11), 747–760.

DiNicolantonio, J. J., & O'Keefe, J. H. (2020). The Importance of Marine Omega-3s for Brain Development and the Prevention and Treatment of Behavior, Mood, and Other Brain Disorders. Nutrients, 12(8), 2333.

Engemann, K., et al. (2019). Residential green space in childhood is associated with lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(11), 5188–5193. 

LaChance, L. R., & Ramsey, D. (2018). Antidepressant foods: An evidence-based nutrient profiling system for depression. World journal of psychiatry, 8(3), 97–104. 

Mitchell, E. S., Conus, N., & Kaput, J. (2014). B vitamin polymorphisms and behavior: evidence of associations with neurodevelopment, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and cognitive decline. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 47, 307–320. 

Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., Bozonet, S. M., & Vissers, M. (2018). High Vitamin C Status Is Associated with Elevated Mood in Male Tertiary Students. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 7(7), 91.  

Young, L. M., Pipingas, A., White, D. J., Gauci, S., & Scholey, A. (2019). A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and 'At-Risk' Individuals. Nutrients, 11(9), 2232. 


These materials are provided to you by Blythedale Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s
Eat Well, Be Well Nutrition Outreach Program.
For more tips and information, please visit Eat Well, Be Well.

Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well Program

Blythedale Children's Hospital, through the generosity of Kohl’s Department Stores, is proud to offer Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well, an innovative outreach program designed to bring health and nutrition education to schools throughout Westchester and Putnam counties. Through this program, Blythedale staff members teach healthy eating habits to children by providing curricula, training and educational tools to school districts throughout the area. The program provides general nutrition guidelines to students, parents and school faculty. Blythedale Children's Hospital offers experts in nutrition and health-education to speak with local parenting groups, PTAs and school personnel.

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