At one point in my college career, college and stress started to coincide and mean the same thing. Being on my own and gaining new independence is what college is all about, right? Let’s not forget to add the juggling of numerous exams, assignments, projects, social life, relationships, extracurriculars, laundry, a budget and more. A balanced life is almost impossible for us students, and stress becomes second nature. In order to be successful in college, you need to stay healthy, happy and at ease. If I told you there are foods that have been scientifically proven to control your stress, anxiety, depression and mood, would you believe me? What if I told you that these foods are even affordable for the budget-conscious students? I know it sounds unbelievable, but it’s true.
Here are 12 cheap, healthy, blissful foods every college student needs:
Turkey releases a chemical known as tryptophan (a building block for protein) that your body converts into serotonin. Serotonin (aka the “natural happy pill”) acts as a natural mood enhancer. So a quick sandwich with slices of turkey is the perfect on-the-run snack to keep the mood up!
Nuts & Seeds
Nuts and seeds are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids (helps brain functions) and magnesium (an essential nutrient that helps in the production of serotonin). Serotonin, as I’ve mentioned earlier, acts as a natural mood enhancer so keeping high levels is key to keeping the mood positive. Walnuts and pistachios are two examples of good nuts to eat. Pistachios are known to reduce the constriction on your heart during times of stress. Along with keeping the heart calm during stress, the shelling of pistachios is known to have a rhythmic, soothing effect during times of cramming homework and exams.
Avocados provide almost 20 different essential nutrients the body needs; talk about doing it all! The fatty acids in avocados help the brain function in times of stress. Jump on the avocado enthusiasts’ band wagon and brighten up your mood!
Bitter is better, and when sticking to sweets, dark chocolate is your best bet. When digesting this treat, it releases a chemical in the body known as anandamide. This chemical temporarily blocks out feelings of depression. Nobody is kidding when they say, “chocolate cures all.” So throw a few dark chocolate (Dove is my favorite) in your backpack for a nice pick-me-up in the library while studying!
Blueberries contain high doses of antioxidants known as anthocyanins (which is what makes blueberries so blue). High amounts of antioxidants aid your brain in the production of dopamine. What exactly is dopamine you ask? It is a chemical in your body that is very important in boosting your hormones, moods, brain focus and functions! So, add this to your happy list!
Yogurt & More
Having an unhealthy gut is known to have a huge impact on the brain. Bowel movements and stomach problems tend to get worse as stress levels increase! Probiotics found in cultured yogurt contain healthy bacteria that your body needs to keep your gut happy so that you stay happy. Any fermented food, including kefir, sour cream and low sodium condiments (like salsa or Pico de Gallo), performs the same way. So, throw some salsa on your omelets in the morning or make an awesome yogurt parfait to keep that smile going!
Leafy green veggies contain folate, which helps regulate neuro chemicals in your body to produce the happy chemicals serotonin and dopamine, like I said earlier! A veggie a day will keep that frown away!
Oatmeal is a complex carb that aids in the production of serotonin and it is heart healthy. Happy heart, happy student. Eat a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast in the morning before you head out to take on that stressful day ahead!
There is a compound found in tea, L-thiamine, that is known to boost a calming effect on the body, which is perfect when you need a break from studying. White tea and chamomile are very soothing, so make yourself a cup of tea before you begin that 10 page paper to stay calm through it all!
Vitamin C and Vitamin D Foods
In order to deal with viruses and bacteria going around campus, you have to make sure you keep your immune system nice and strong. A strong immune system will keep you less stressed, which means one less thing to worry about! Vitamin C & D play huge roles in keeping the sniffles away! Foods with Vitamin C include grapefruits and oranges, which are also known to lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol. Vitamin D foods can be found in mushrooms, red meats and cheese!
Crunchy Veggies & Fruits
Crunching on something can ease the tension in your jaw during those jaw-clenching moments (and we all know how common those times are during exam season)! Throw a bag of raw veggies and an apple in your bag before you head over to class or the library and keep that great mood going!
Eggs contains thiamin (improves wellbeing) as well as Vitamin D, which play a key role in the happy card.
Stress has nothing on you with these cheap and easy foods. Keep that smile on a roll!
Christina is currently a student at Rutgers University pursuing a degree in Nutritional Sciences with a focus in food service administration and minor in public relations. She loves traveling around Europe and spending time with her family in Greece every summer. She hopes to have her own business in the near future dealing with nutritious foods and beverages.