By Megan Wine
It’s that time of the year when you have two midterms, five assignments, and three quizzes all in the same day and you feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day to get it all done. For many, eating seems like the last priority during these extremely stressful weeks in the semester, but what you’re eating could actually play a major role in your overall stress level. Many studies have shown a link between stress/anxiety levels and the foods that are consumed throughout a day. So next time you’re feeling stressed, try these healthy options rather than the bag of chips, or sugary processed snack you would usually try.
1. Dark Chocolate: I know what you’re thinking, Chocolate?! Healthy?! No way! But yes! Studies have shown that eating small amounts of dark chocolate everyday can actually boost not only your mood, but also improve your brain function! A 2009 study by the Journal of Proteome Research showed a direct link between daily dark chocolate consumption and a reduction in the stress hormone, Cortisol, levels in individuals. So it looks like mom was wrong all along, chocolate is actually good for you (in moderation, of course).
2. Foods containing Vitamin C: You know that old saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Well an orange a day could actually keep your stress away! Eating foods rich in vitamin C like oranges, grapefruits, or any other citrus fruits can help to lower not only stress hormone levels, but also lower blood pressure in stressful situations and can even keep your immune system strong as well!
3. Complex carbs: And no this doesn’t mean candies and sugary treats, a complex carb is something like whole grain bread, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, etc. these are broken down by your body much more slowly than sugars (simple carbs) helping your body to sustain energy for longer and also increase the levels of serotonin that your brain produces! Serotonin is a hormone that increases calmness, so the next time you’re feeling stressed, remember to opt for whole grain bread rather than white (which is much more processed).
4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids: This one might not sound as straightforward as the last three, but it’s still not a difficult thing to find! Good sources of Omega-3’s are fatty fish (salmon, tuna, etc.), nuts, and flax! These healthy fats can help to reduce cortisol levels, and also can help prevent long-term depression and heart disease!
While these four suggestions may not completely relieve the stress from your midterms, work, and life, they can definitely aid in reducing your overall stress hormone levels and keep you from that edge of overwhelming stress (believe me, we’ve all been there). One big thing to remember as well is that caffeine also triggers the release of cortisol, so even though that fifth cup of coffee is keeping you awake at 3 am to study, you might consider calling it a day and getting some good sleep instead to allow your body to rest and be ready for the day ahead! Go ace those finals and remember that what your put in your body can actually affect your health more than you think!
Medicine, UCLA Center for East-West. “Eat Right, Drink Well, Stress Less: Stress-Reducing Foods, Herbal Supplements, and Teas – Explore Integrative Medicine.” Explore Integrative Medicine. Shannon Wongvibulsin, 2014. Web. 15 Oct. 2016. <http://exploreim.ucla.edu/nutrition/eat-right-drink-well-stress-less-stress-reducing-foods-herbal-supplements-and-teas/>.