7 Foods to Keep the Stress Away

Your dietary dilemma: Instantly gratifying your anxiety-induced urge to eat won't help you keep your cool, but neither will skipping meals altogether. The solution? "On a stressful day, you don't have to be a nutritional star," says Heidi Skolnik, nutritionist for the New York Giants. "You just don't want to make an already bad day worse." Here's how to make it better, and keep stress whipped into submission all day long.

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Gridlock adds half an hour to your commute.

Stress antidote: A Starbucks skim-milk chai latte and half a bagel with cream cheese. The carbohydrates in the bagel provide energy, and they're balanced by protein from the milk in the latte, which makes you feel alert. And both items are portable.

The IT guy never reserved the PowerPoint projector for your departmental presentation.

Stress antidote: Milk, hold the coffee and sugar. Stress may lower your levels of serotonin, one of the body's critical stay-calm chemicals. But milk contains whey protein, which Dutch researchers found can help boost tryptophan, one of the building blocks of serotonin, by 43 percent.

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Your boss asks you to lunch—for no apparent reason.

Stress antidote: A manly salad with grilled chicken or fish. Leafy greens—arugula, chard, spinach—are rich sources of B vitamins, which are part of the assembly line that manufactures feel-good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, a lack of B6 can cause nervousness, irritability, and even depression.

Your pitch to a potential client bombs. You escape to the nearest vending machine.

Stress antidote: M&M's. And if you have a choice, pick the peanut kind. The chocolate will trigger the release of relax-right-away endorphins, while the nuts will replenish your protein stores to help keep you focused.

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The wife is angry because you've worked late for the second week in a row. Likelihood of sex diminishes.

Stress antidote: Grilled salmon—for two. Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids—salmon, mackerel, trout—can lower the likelihood of feelings of hostility by almost 20 percent, according to a recent study by Kaiser Permanente, a California-based health-care provider.

Favorite baseball team locked in extra-inning battle with archrival.

Stress antidote: A piece of fruit. Any kind of fruit is fine—the sugar in it will give you the little burst of energy that your adrenaline-charged body is craving. But go for oranges in particular, says Pam Peeke, M.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland. "Most people get manually or orally fixated when they're stressed out—that's why some people smoke," she says. Or why they fail to notice they emptied an entire bag of Doritos two innings ago. Peeling an orange will keep your hands and mouth busy.

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Team's win has you too keyed up to sleep.

Stress antidote: Oatmeal and a banana. The rush from your team's last-minute heroics may be interfering with production of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Give your body a boost by whipping up a bowl of instant oatmeal and topping it with a sliced banana. Melatonin is found in only a few foods, and these are two of them.

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