April is National Stress Awareness Month. You know what they say. April showers bring…stress. You’re a student. It’s not easy to turn off work mode or to convince yourself that, yes, you actually did earn that one extra episode of House of Cards.

However, there are a few foods that specialize in stress relief, most of which you can find in your dining hall on campus. This meal plan for a day in the dining hall is sure to calm those nerves.



Photo by Becky Hughes

First, reserve a seat where you’ll be hit with some sunlight. Get some vitamin D, which lowers risk of panic and depressed moods. Researchers from London’s UCL Institute of Child Health have reported an association between both low vitamin D levels and increased panic disorders and depression. You can learn here how to get this vitamin from your food, too.

For the most important meal of the day, grab a bowl and head over to where your dining hall serves good ol’ oatmeal. Carbohydrates are essential for the brain’s production of serotonin, so they serve as natural antidepressants, says Dr. Judith J. Wurtman of MIT. In addition, oats are complex carbs, which will prevent a rise in blood glucose after consumption. Plus, there are too many variations on this simple breakfast to count, so you can always keep it interesting.

If your dining hall serves them, top this bowl with some blueberries. These little antioxidant babes aid your brain in making dopamine, which will brighten your mood and keep your memory sharp. Heather Mangieri, RD, swears by the effects of these little berries. Dope, huh?



Photo by Laura Lim

Head over to the salad bar and create a salad with a base of dark leafy greens. Greens like spinach are sure to stop stress in its tracks with their high folate content. Folate supports production of neurotransmitters which regulate those moods of yours. Bogged down with the two essays your have to write this weekend? Grab some greens. Feeling content and pretty productive? Get some greens in ya.

Top the salad with sunflower seeds if you can. They’re full of magnesium; deficiency of this metal can trigger anxiety, depression and panic according to a study from a Society for Endocrinology conference.

Dining hall got guac? Avocados are packed with folate, vitamins E and B and potassium. The effects of these vitamins are abundant. Plus, the filling fats in avocados will keep you full later. So, if you think you’re wasting time sitting in the cafeteria that could be spent at the library, you at least won’t have to take too much time to snack later.



Photo by Helena Lin

If your dining hall serves turkey, consider making this your dinner’s protein. Turkey breast is a source of amino acids which your body turns into serotonin. Specifically, it has the chemical tryptophan in it, which will alleviate that agitation from staring at your biology textbook all afternoon. The tryptophan and in turn the serotonin will get you healthier sleep, too. There’s a debate, in fact, regarding the sleepiness following eating so much on Thanksgiving.



Photo courtesy of @stuffed_cookies on Instagram

You’ve been working hard. You deserve to serve that sweet tooth. Head to a campus mini mart and purchase a bar of dark chocolate. Or, head out to Trader Joe’s and try some of these dark-chocolate covered things. (Unfortunately, the chocolate should be as dark as you can get it with little to no added sugars or cream. If you aren’t a naked chocolate aficionado, bear with me.)

There’s a chemical called anandamide (dubbed the bliss molecule) in dark chocolate, and it actually blocks depressive feelings, according to the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego. This treat will calm you down while also giving you that lil’ natural caffeine dose.

Now, with these superfoods by your side, go tackle your day.


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