Some Foods Serve as Healthy Stress Relief

by Alex Cheser
Columnist

We’re over halfway through the last week of classes and finals week is around the corner. In my experience, and I would think most would agree, the end of winter term is a whole heck of a lot worse than the end of fall term. First of all, despite the breather (or not) of spring break, everyone’s getting exponentially more stir-crazy and especially so with the weather warming up. Also, every Greek organization and club has had some sort of awesome event within these last two weeks. Lastly, if you’re like me, I’m just tired of it all. I need sleep, a day without papers and the ability to focus on something other than checking my Twitter or Scandinavian music blogs every 10 minutes.

Other than being busy and stressed, this is also the time of year when people often let their diets go and fill up on junk food and energy drinks. Five-Hour Energy makes six-packs of its product for a reason. (But it’s so economical!) However, if people make certain diet decisions, they can not only eat healthier but also choose foods known to reduce stress.

Food reducing stress? No, I’m not talking about stress-eating. That’s a completely different issue. Incorporating the following types of food into your diet during this time can ease your stress and protect your body.

Raw fruits and veggies: Eating crunchy raw veggies like carrots and celery as well as fruits like apples and pears provides a healthy snack and something to physically wake you up just by eating them.

Oranges and other citrus fruits: Your immune system can become pretty vulnerable with the amount of stress, lack of sleep and the ever-changing weather. An increase in vitamin C intake can help prevent your immune system from bottoming out.

Nuts: Nuts like pistachios and almonds are full of vitamins and protein and have been linked to increases in serotonin, a mood-stabilizing chemical in the body.
Chocolate – Chocolate, and mainly dark chocolate, is known to elicit positive emotions as well as to lower stress hormones. Plus, a little indulgence may make you feel better.

Healthy fats: Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish, particularly salmon and tuna, and avocado helps regulate stress and hormone levels in the body. Plus, we’re still in Lent so you know fish options will be available.

Complex carbs: Eating whole grains and complex carbohydrates stabilizes blood sugar levels, is more filling and richer in nutrients, and helps increase levels of serotonin.
Dark greens: Leafy greens like spinach, kale and Swiss chard are full of nutrients and minerals to keep your immune system afloat. Plus, they add to that crunch if in a salad.

Tea: Coffee drinks are usually what we go to for that boost of caffeine, but studies show that tea is a much healthier alternative and could even reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone released during stressful situations that has negative health effects if not regulated.

Water: Stay hydrated — it’s important.

These suggestions are all things to keep in mind for eating all the time, but they’re especially important during these times of higher stress. The magic snack that I’ve rediscovered is trail mix. It mixes nuts, fruit and sometimes chocolate. Plus, it’s delicious and now available in the Rafskeller and the 1780 Café in addition to the yogurt-covered pretzels and chocolate-covered raisins. (These are awesome. Thank you!)

These foods, in addition to plenty of sleep (or whatever you can get) and regular exercise, will help reduce stress and keep your body in shape as you battle through this last week and a half. Good luck!

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