What to Eat for Stress, Sickness, and Sleep

Jan 24, 2022
Healthy Eating

There is so much information out there about nutrition, but have you ever thought about eating for what is going on at the moment? In this article, I will include a few highlights and tips to keep the guesswork out of what to eat when you are stressed, sick or need to improve your sleep.


Tryptophan and magnesium are key players in getting a good night’s sleep. The amino acid, Tryptophan, converts to melatonin in the body, which is a sleep-regulating hormone. Some foods that contain tryptophan are tuna, chicken, turkey, nuts, seeds, and milk. Magnesium regulates melatonin and even regulates neurotransmitters that send signals to the brain and nervous system. Melatonin can be found in leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and beans.

A few quick tips:

  • Eliminate caffeinated beverages 6-8 hours before bedtime to allow your nervous system time to get into a rest state. 
  • Avoid large meals 4-6 hours before bedtime so that your digestive system does not wake you up throughout the night. 
  • Eating late interrupts the circadian rhythm, so take all tempting sugary treats out of the house. 


Healthy fats and fiber are your best friend during times of stress. Healthy fats help regulate your mood, balance your energy and make you feel full after eating. Instead of emotional eating when you're under stress, try eating nuts, avocados, fish, or eggs. Fiber helps regulate your blood sugar and gut health which can improve your stress response. Foods high in fiber include oatmeal, beans, lentils, broccoli, berries, or whole grains. 

A few quick tips:

  • When you're craving sugar, substitute oatmeal with nut butter, which is high in fiber, and cinnamon, which helps regulate your blood sugar. 
  • Choosing tea or fruit-infused water is a healthy alternative to caffeinated beverages which can heighten your nerves. 
  • Next time you want to "stress eat", try a combo of your favorite high-fiber veggies and hummus for a double hit of healthy fats and fiber. 


Zinc, Vitamin C, and extra hydration are the keys to overcoming and shortening the shelf life of your cold and boosting your immune system. There is much debate on Vitamin C, as it has not been found to consistently prevent illness, but in some individuals, it can shorten the length of a cold. Despite the controversy, Vitamin C does have immune-boosting effects and should be a part of a normal, healthy diet overall. So try oranges, guavas, kiwi, bell peppers, and snow peas.

A less controversial choice when it comes to sickness is Zinc. Given you do not take too little or too much zinc (always speak to a doctor if you are supplementing), you have a greater likelihood of preventing and/or shortening colds. Nuts, beans, dairy, and whole grains are great sources of zinc. 

 A few quick tips:

  • Stick to the natural source of Vitamin C like an orange instead of orange juice which often has unwanted, added sugars.
  • Keep away from dairy as it can cause increased mucus production. Instead, keep a water bottle with a straw nearby for regular hydration. 
  • Eat broth-based soups (like chicken soup) often as they are rich with zinc and Vitamin C. Plus, the broth helps with hydration. 

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– Casey Edmonds, CHWC, CPT, CMS

Health Advisor | Email Casey

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