Edible stress busters

fresh fruit

You’re approaching the end of the academic year. That means projects, papers, and finals—and sometimes comfort foods. Although sweets stimulate the short-term release of serotonin, a calming brain chemical, over the next day or two, junk foods leave us cranky. For edible stress busters, try these alternatives:

Fresh fruits and veggies

Eating 7–8 servings a day of fresh fruits and vegetables boosts mood in young adults, according to a 2013 British study involving undergraduates.


Fatty fish is one of the best protein sources for keeping your stress hormones under control. Top crackers with water-canned tuna, sardines, or salmon.

Wholegrain breads, pastas, & cereals

Eating carbs can raise your level of serotonin though the effects are variable from person to person. Stick with complex carbs, which take longer to digest than processed (white) carbs. Check food labels and make sure “whole grain” is the first or second ingredient.

Milk, yogurt, and leafy greens

Calcium deficiency has been linked to anxiety. Adults aged 19–50 should get about 1,000 mg of calcium a day: An 8 oz. serving of low-fat yogurt provides about one-third of that requirement. Any time spinach and kale are being served, grab some. More info on sources of calcium.