Eat to reduce stress, what you need to know

By Bev Rella

Bev Rella, nutritionistYour kids might be home from school and you are also trying to work from home. Or you are just off balance in an ever-changing world. Stress and uncertainty are a part of the “new normal” we are all experiencing. And while there’s a lot of information out there about COVID-19, most experts just say over and over, “we don’t know much about this disease.”

How should we cope with all this news? Where do we start? How do we stay healthy?

Stress relief, such as yoga, reading, journaling and meditation, can go a long way to help. Try to create an attitude of gratitude, exercise and staying hydrated are all important. But what about food? The most striking thing I noticed when grocery shopping over the past several days is that the one area of the grocery least disturbed is the fresh food aisle. I get it, when we’re anxious, we want to reach for comfort foods, like chips and cookies. What many people don’t realize is that fresh fruits and veggies are powerhouses of important nutrients and eating them helps keep stress and illness at bay. 

Supporting our immune system is a great way to stay as healthy as possible during this time. And loading up on foods high in vitamins and nutrients is an important way to make sure our immune system is operating at its highest levels.

So which foods will help the most in this trying time? Some of the vitamins and minerals that are most supportive of immune function are Vitamins A, C, D and zinc. There are others too but leaning on these will be a great start to your quarantined menu planning.

Vitamin C 

Some studies show that Vitamin C and zinc will aid in improving symptoms and shortening the duration of respiratory tract infections. 

Significant sources of Vitamin C include: red bell peppers (don’t cut them until you are ready to eat them, they lose potency as soon as they are cut), cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower, cantaloupe, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes and of course, citrus fruits

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is known as an anti-inflammation vitamin because of its critical role in enhancing immune function. Some sources of Vitamin A are liver, egg yolks, milk, and cheese.

Spinach and other dark leafy greens, broccoli, vibrantly colored orange, red, and yellow fruits and vegetables are also great and are preferably cooked and eaten with a fat source.

Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin!  Fifteen to 20 minutes in the sun will generate 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D. If you live in sunshine, year-round, take advantage of it. If you have more clouds than sun, increase your Vitamin D by eating fatty meats (through organic, pasteurized animals please!), egg yolks, liver and dairy. Also, add more seafood to your diet, such as cod, salmon, sardines and shrimp.


Known as a trace mineral, a little goes a long way. It’s important as a partner to Vitamin A in the body.  The best source of zinc is shellfish, meats, poultry and pork. Whole grains, nuts and seeds are great sources, too, but make sure you prepare them properly by soaking before cooking them to get the best benefits. Nuts and seeds have a substance called phytic acid on them that impairs zinc absorption.

One final note: supplementation is always an option but check first with your health professional to make sure that you can add supplements based on your individual health condition.

Planning for and eating healthy meals is not only great for your immune system but is an excellent way to spend time, especially if you are home right now. Try some new recipes today with immune supporting nutrients.

Your immunity grocery list:

Leafy greens and cruciferous veggies

High in Vitamin A and C

Citrus fruits, cantaloupe and strawberries

High in Vitamin C

Red peppers and other vibrantly colored vegetables

High in Vitamin A and C

Whole grains, nuts and seeds

High in Zinc

Shellfish and seafood

High in Vitamin D and Zinc

Meats, poultry and pork

High in Vitamin D and Zinc

Egg yolks and dairy

High in Vitamin A and D


Bev Rella is a nutrition therapist at BAR Wellness. You may reach her at

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