We all know that eating a balanced diet from all of the major food groups it the best way to stay physically healthy. But did you know that there are certain foods that boost your mental health as well? Many foods from various food groups can actually significantly lower stress levels, which for combat veterans who currently suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can be a life saver. Recent news reports have confirmed that roughly 22 veterans a day are committing suicide, and no doubt that some of those veterans suffer from mental illnesses like PTSD. But find out how to reduce this stress by making the right eating choices!

An online article posted by the Food Network called “Top 10 Foods for Stress Relief” provides a great slideshow of delicious images of healthy foods as well as many of their medicinal benefits. Below if a breakdown of the foods listed, sorted by food group:


Lots of fruits are packed with vitamins and antioxidants, which make them great sources of healing properties that help rejuvenate the body and mind. Potassium, for instance, is particularly great for lowering blood pressure levels, which instantly adds a calming effect to daily living. High blood pressure puts increased strain on the heart and can lead to major health problems down the road if left untreated. The article says to search for potassium in fruits like bananas or even avocados.


Normally when a person experiences high levels of stress, their stomach tends to produce more acid. This increase in acid production then brings on increased levels of nausea, heartburn, and in extreme cases (i.e. highly stressful), even vomiting. But since plain milk serves as a base, drinking a glass of milk instantly decreases the amount of acid produced in your stomach, which may help alleviate these uncomfortable and distracting symptoms. Yogurt is listed as a smart food choice as well for similar properties, but also for its calcium, Vitamin D, and protein. Plus, adding fruit to plain yogurt boosts a person’s intake of antioxidants, which only boosts a person’s physical and mental health even more, depending on the type of fruit.

The article also suggests to drink milk around bedtime “for more restful sleep,” which for veterans who suffer from PTSD, can find this advice very helpful. One of the most common side effects of PTSD includes insomnia and nightmares, so by drinking a glass of (perhaps heated) milk before bedtime, a veteran can experience a well-deserved night’s rest.


The article specifically mentions Swiss Chard as being incredibly beneficial towards lowering stress levels since Swiss Chard contains large amounts of magnesium, which reportedly helps control the body’s stress hormone, cortisol. Spinach is another leafy green that is also high in magnesium, and is easier to include in more recipes stemming from breakfast to dinner.


Nuts are incredibly high in protein, good fats, vitamins, and fiber. Combined, all of these elements help keep the immune system strong, which the article mentions is extremely helpful since high levels of stress often leave an individual prone to developing illnesses, like the common cold, more frequently.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs, one in five combat veterans develops PTSD either during or after their military service. But while these foods definitely help decrease an individual’s stress levels, a combat veteran clinically suffering from PTSD is strongly advised to also seek individualized therapy and perhaps even prescription medication. However, veterans should be wary of seeking this sort of treatment through the VA, since reports released by CNN in 2012 revealed that medical professionals associated with the VA prescribed 259% more narcotics than in 2002, and that individualized therapy had fallen by the wayside. Therefore, ailing soldiers and veterans who suffer from PTSD might want to consider consulting outside organizations to rehabilitate their physical and mental health.

One of those organizations is Operation: I.V, a 501(c)3 non-profit founded in 2012 that helps combat veterans heal from both PTSD as well as traumatic brain injuries. Its founder, Roxann Abrams, is a Gold Star Mother who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams in 2009. Randy took his own life after experiencing a PTSD flashback from his service in Iraq. Randy had undiagnosed PTSD- a common occurrence among combat veterans either due to mistakes made by the medical field or simply the individual’s failure to report such grave symptoms.

As a result of her son’s death, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. so that combat veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan have a place to receive treatment through a specialized “VIP”, or “Veteran Intervention Plan” program. “VIP” offers ten different rehabilitation programs, including hyperbolic oxygen therapy, service dogs, and anxiety reduction therapy. Additionally, veterans may also partake in programs such as job retraining, business mentoring, and educational assistance. Again, while there is no cure for PTSD, the programs provided by Operation: I.V. can drastically improve a veteran’s mental health and overall outlook on life.

Author's Bio: 

Abigail Fazelat is a contributing writer for Operation: I.V., a non-profit organization founded by Gold Star Mother Roxann Abrams who lost her son SFC Randy Abrams to PTSD. Randy took his own life after experiencing a wartime flashback- an experience not uncommon to any combat veteran. As a result, Abrams founded Operation: I.V. as an “intravenous of help” for other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, and contemplating suicide. Fazelat has worked for the organization since October 2013 under a pseudonym.