May 26, 2017

Five Nutrition Pitfalls to Avoid and Five Nutrients to Include When Stressed

By Rachel Wyman
Clinical Nutrition Educator

Stress can have a very real impact on our diet, as many of us change our eating habits when our stress levels rise. Avoiding these pitfalls and including these nutrients can be beneficial to managing our stress and maintaining a healthy diet.


  • Caffeine – Some studies suggest high doses of caffeine (>400 mg) can lead to increased anxiety and nausea. Caffeine can also raise blood pressure and adrenaline, disturb sleep, and impair absorption of iron and calcium.
  • Alcohol – Alcohol can impair judgment and clarity of thought. Excessive alcohol intake can also disturb sleep, as well as deplete the body’s reserves of B vitamins, which are crucial for brain function.
  • Dehydration – Inadequate fluid intake impacts blood volume; requiring the heart muscle to work harder to deliver oxygen to organs and tissues. This may exacerbate fatigue. The kidneys also have to work harder to filter out blood waste products.
  • Sugar – Excessive sugar intake can cause mood swings, poor concentration and immune system suppression.
  • Fat – A high intake of dietary fat can suppress the immune system. Excessive fat intake can also raise stress hormone levels, including cortisol.


  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – Thiamine helps with memory, concentration, and normal brain and nervous system function. Low levels can result in weakness, irritability and depression. Food sources include black beans, tuna, acorn squash, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds.
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) – Vitamin B6 helps manufacture chemical messengers, including serotonin, responsible for mood regulation. Food sources include bananas, salmon, tuna, chickpeas and chicken breast.
  • Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) – Vitamin B12 helps with brain function, particularly melatonin and serotonin production. Food sources include salmon, chicken, turkey and clams.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium helps muscles relax and cells produce energy. Food sources include spinach, pumpkin seeds, black beans, quinoa and avocado.
  • Selenium – Low levels of selenium can lead to anxiety, irritability, hostility and depression. Food sources include Brazil nuts, tuna, sunflower seeds and fortified whole grains.

*Please note: It is unadvisable to take individual supplements without medical supervision. Alternatively, it is safe to include nutrient-rich foods in your diet.

Rachel Wyman, RD, is Clinical Nutrition Educator at Mission Weight Management.

To learn more about Mission Weight Management and to sign up for a free information session, call (828) 213-4100 or visit