Eat your way out of stress

Meagan Malesic, Asst. Features Editor

     As the semester begins to kick into full-gear, the stress that comes along with it is practically inevitable.  We all have different ways of dealing with our stressors, whether they be healthy coping skills or less-than-healthy ones.  Many of us are all too familiar with the concept of stress-eating when the going gets tough, but this actually may not be the worst of coping strategies to try out.  If you tend to deal with your stress by indulging in the stress-eating practice, or if you’re just looking for possible new ways to lower your stress and anxiety levels this semester, here is a list of some so-called “superfoods” that have potentially healthy, positive benefits on mental health and stress reduction.


     Vegetables might not be the most popular of the food groups, especially among college students, but their benefits are worth taking into consideration.  Asparagus is full of folic acid, which is linked to lower levels of depression and can promote overall mood benefits.  Asparagus can be easily added onto any meal as a side by preparing it either grilled, steamed, or sautéed, or even can be eaten dipped in dressing to enhance its taste.  If asparagus just isn’t up your alley, though, any leafy greens such as spinach or even broccoli that have high levels of folic acid can have the same mood-booting effects.


     Blueberries are a powerful superfood because of their high levels of antioxidants.  Antioxidants are needed by our bodies in order to repair and protect cells, so having them stored up for when the body is stressed allows us to reestablish balance and calmness quicker.  Blueberries are great to eat on their own, but can also be added to many different foods to enhance them in both taste and nutritional value.


     One of the best types of nuts to add into a diet is the almond, which has health benefits that directly correspond with stress reduction.  Almonds are rich in both B12 and E vitamins that help build and support the body’s immune system.  Stress tends to weaken the immune system (which in turn can cause sickness and therefore additional stress), so the nutritional value of almonds helps the body keep these potential illnesses at bay.


     One of the most vital neurotransmitters in regards to mental wellbeing is serotonin, and the superfood of oatmeal promotes the increased production of this chemical in the brain.  The high levels of healthy carbs and fiber in oatmeal encourages the production and release of serotonin, therefore raising levels of happiness and decreasing levels of stress.  The oats of oatmeal also tend to take a while for the body to digest, so its calming effects tend to last for an extended period of time.


     Have you ever wondered why you feel so calm and relaxed after Thanksgiving dinner?  Turkey is yet another superfood that promotes the production of serotonin, resulting in calmness and decreased levels of stress.  An amino acid in turkey called tryptophan is the culprit behind its mental health benefits, and is a reason why it should be regularly incorporated into your diet year-round instead of just in November.  


     It may seem like a stretch, but gastrointestinal imbalance can actually result in signals being sent to the brain that increase levels of stress – but don’t worry, because yogurt can help solve this problem.  The probiotics in yogurt help reduce gastrointestinal distress, therefore stopping your gut from sending the distress signals to your brain and stressing you out.  The other health benefits of yogurt, such as high calcium and protein, also add to its importance for your overall wellbeing.  


     Avocados are an absolute necessity within any healthy dietary regimen.  Avocados are ridiculously packed with health benefits, including a plethora of healthy fats and high levels of potassium, which help in lowering blood pressure.  These phenomenal fruits are also full of B vitamins.  This is important because B vitamin deficiency is linked to higher levels of anxiety, so adding avocado into your daily diet can help you lower these anxious feelings.

     This semester, rather than digging into an entire gallon of ice cream or ordering Chinese takeout every time that school starts to get you down, consider helping your body and mind by filling it with superfoods that will leave you feeling healthier, happier, and stress-free.