How to Choose the Right Foods to Get You Through Finals

Photo Illustration by Liz Monroy / el Don
Photo Illustration by Liz Monroy / el Don
Photo Illustration by Liz Monroy / el Don
Food choice when stressed can make the difference in feeling relief

By Angel Ramirez

Eating when stressed can be a bad habit when the food of choice is a candy bar or bag of chips. But swapping junk food for healthier options can actually offer relief.

“I suggest anything that is low on calories,” said Rennee Yocam, Santa Ana College physician. “Eating low calorie foods definitely helps.”

Almonds, for example, are packed with B and E vitamins that help boost your immune system, while walnuts and pistachios can help lower blood pressure. Plus, cracking open a shell slows down your eating, making these nuts a diet-friendly snack with heart-health benefits.

Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids that protect against heart disease. A study from the journal Diabetes & Metabolism found that omega-3 keeps the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from peaking.

Just one three-ounce serving of cooked wild salmon has over 2,000 mg of omega-3, a bonus of double the daily intake recommended by the American Heart Association.

“There are studies that show that leafy greens, blueberries, walnuts, salmon and foods high in omega-3 can help reduce stress,” said Christina Duong, SAC health educator.

Cashews are also rich in omega-3 and protein, making them a healthy, stress-reducing snack.

One ounce of this buttery nut packs about 11 percent of the daily-recommended value of zinc, an essential mineral that studies show may help reduce anxiety. Zinc affects the levels of neurotransmitters, nerve chemicals that influence mood.

Milk contains tryptophan, which, as it is metabolized, is converted to mood-boosting serotonin. Plus it contains calcium, magnesium and potassium that may help keep blood pressure down. Water is another liquid to drink when your stress levels go up.

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“First thing is reach for the water,” Yocam said.

Stress Foods at a Glance
Omega-3: Fatty acids that are thought to provide a range of health benefits,  like lowered cholesterol.
ZINC: Dopamine production is partly regulated by zinc status, which may determine mood.
TRYPTOPHAN: An amino acid that promotes sleep and is found in small amounts in all protein foods.
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