Holiday stress is unavoidable for most of us. Between the shopping, cooking, working, and family functions, holiday joy becomes more of a necessary reminder than it does a natural occurrence. But there’s no need to be a holiday grinch if you take care of your body properly. Fueling your brain provides not only beneficial aging properties but also mental benefits as well.

Certain foods reduce stress, improve nervous system function, and contain nutrients such as B vitamins, protein, magnesium, iron, and zinc to also fight off stress and inflammation. Eating a healthy diet rich in nutritious foods this time of year is important not only to ward off illness but also to prevent depression and manage anxiety. Here are some of the best options:

1. Blueberries

bread-pudding (1)

Source: Blueberry and Oat Breakfast Bread Pudding

Blueberries are some of the most antioxidant-rich fruits you can eat, as you already know. They’re filled with fiber to regulate blood sugar, polyphenols and Vitamin C, anti-inflammatory properties, hormone-balancing properties, and gut-boosting nutrients that boost beneficial bacteria to improve immunity and fight stress even further. Use blueberries in: Blueberry and Oat Breakfast Bread PuddingChia Blueberry Cups, Gluten-Free Blueberry Apple Pie Cake, Zucchini Blueberry Muffins, or just add them to a superfood smoothie.

2. Chickpeas


Source: Curry Chick’n and Gnocchi Soup

This sweet, nutty legume is a rich source of dietary protein, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and zinc. Also rich in iron and potassium, chickpeas have it all when it comes to necessary nutrients to beat stress. Vitamin B6 and magnesium provide calming benefits, while amino acids and protein help balance neurotransmitter function. Enjoy hummus, chickpea stew or soup, serve them over a simple quinoa salad, cook them with curried Jamaican tofu, or use chickpea flour to make a vegan omelette or Socca Pizza.

3. Spinach

The popular green loved by many is a top-notch stress-boosting food to enjoy. Rich in protein, magnesium, Vitamin B6, and other nutritional goodies, spinach just  makes you feel a bit better all the way around. It’s great to include in a morning smoothie or a lunchtime salad since mornings and afternoons seem to be the most hectic for everyone. Enjoy it cooked in dinner entrees or stuffed into mid-day wraps for other tasty options. Or try a Pumpkin Green Latte with spinach and Roasted Veggies with Buttery Garlic and Spinach Salad.

4. Pumpkin Seeds


Source: Pumpkin Protein Smoothie

Pumpkin seeds are packed with iron, magnesium, B vitamins, protein, and the amino acid tryptophan that fights frayed nerves and anxiety. Tryptophan is also a precursor to serotonin, which is the feel-good hormone associated with preventing depression. Use raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds as the healthiest option, and toss a few here and there throughout your day whether it be on some morning oatmeal, on top of a smoothie, in a trail mix as a mid-day snack, or sprinkled onto a lunchtime salad of sorts for extra filling protein and fiber. Bonus feature: pumpkin seeds are also a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which supports cellular function even further to ward off anxiety.

5. Pumpkin and Sweet Potatoes


Source: Sweet Potato, Carrot and Leek Soup

These two orange-colored veggies are rich in stress-boosting tryptophan, magnesium, Vitamin C, and potassium. They both help combat frayed nerves and low blood sugar while also keeping you full due to high amounts of fiber. Best of all, they’re especially hydrating, which is important during stressful times when the body often undergoes intense dehydration. Aim for one serving of an orange-colored root veggie like pumpkin and sweet potatoes during the colder months when they help provide extra immunity-boosting properties. Try Pumpkin Overnight Oats, Creamy Pumpkin Coconut Pie, Creamy Pumpkin Acai Bowl, Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Chili, Sweet Potato, Carrot and Leek Soup or even Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Brownies.

6. Oatmeal


Source: Carrot Cake Oatmeal With Ginger Spiced Cashew Cream

Oatmeal is a wonderful food to stabilize the nerves, prevent depression, provide energy, and feed your body mental-boosting nutrients. Oats are one of the highest sources of Vitamin B6, protein, fiber, and magnesium. Enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anytime you need a filling meal for pennies per serving. Oats can be mixed into smoothie for natural protein, turned into dessert, and enjoyed hot or cold, depending on how you like them prepared.

These are just a handful of some of the best foods to ward of seasonal stressors, but to be honest, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Plant-based foods all have the right nutrients to fight off stress for the long haul. You’ll want to pack your diet out with these as much as possible, along with getting some fresh air and enjoying the sunshine, aim for consistent daily movement, and sneak in some quiet time each day to manage stress even more effectively. Remember, during the time of the year since SAD (seasonal affective disorder) strikes up, your diet can be your best ally (aside from exercise) to help you prevent depression and anxiety. Why not use it?!

Kiss those holiday nerves goodbye with a whole foods, plant-based diet to support you in every single way, in and out of the kitchen!

Also see: Elevate Your Mood and Get Happy With These 11 Foods and don’t forget that chocolate, almonds, broccoli, bananas, chia, sunflower and hemp seeds, along with walnuts also make fantastic mood-boosting foods to add to your day.

What healthy foods help you beat holiday stress?

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