Shorter days and dark mornings mean many of us are already starting to feel ‘down in the dumps’. We are also coming into the time year when people tend to feel more anxious and stressed, with the weeks running up to Christmas being challenging for many people.
The good news is that what we put into our bodies can have a positive effect on keeping anxiety at bay and reducing feelings of stress.
Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five foods to bring some calm into your life.
Delicious and easily transportable, almonds can really help to ease feelings of stress and anxiety. Why? It’s because they’re high in the mineral, magnesium. Magnesium is often referred to as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’ because it’s needed for muscle relaxation, therefore can really help the body feel calm and rested.
Almonds are also packed with other nutrients such as vitamin B2 and zinc which are used to produce serotonin, our happy hormone, needed to help manage the stress response.
Almonds make a great on-the-go snack, are delicious added to a stir fry and make a perfect bedtime wind down treat to help you feel calm and relaxed and better able to sleep peacefully.
Whilst it’s often referred to as a grain, quinoa is technically a seed. However it’s usually used in the same way as other wholegrains such as rice. Importantly, it’s rich in B vitamins, all of which have their own part to play in keeping the body balanced. B vitamins are needed to support the nervous system as well as helping to produce our stress hormones. Wholegrains in general are great for producing slow-release energy, so we don’t get the highs and lows which can cause feelings of anxiety.
Quinoa is a positive addition to any diet because it’s very high in protein. Therefore, quinoa can be simply served with roasted vegetables, as a salad with feta cheese, chopped tomatoes and mint or alongside roasted chicken and vegetables. Just use quinoa as you would rice or couscous.
Often used medicinally over the centuries, apples are as useful now to health as they’ve ever been. Importantly apples are high in vitamin C, needed to help produce our stress hormones, but are also another slow energy-releasing food. If your energy is consistent throughout the day, then you won’t suffer with as many highs and lows, and your mood will also stay better balanced.
Apples are another great snack and work well chopped with a few almonds, to keep you going. Even better, they’re in season right now. However, apples often sit in supermarket storerooms for many months, making then slightly low on taste. Farmers markets are the place to look and having a browse around on a weekend is another great way to leave your worries behind for a few hours.
For a food so tiny, chia seeds certainly deliver big health gains. Originating from central and south America, the Aztecs were believed to have used them as an energy source. This is because they’re high in protein, keeping blood sugar in good balance and so keeping energy levels and mood balanced. Protein is also needed to produce hormones, especially stress hormones.
Chia seeds are a very rich source of the brain loving omega 3 fats. These are essential for a healthy brain and for producing brain neurotransmitters, including ones that keep us calm and balanced.
Even better, they are so quick and easy to include in the diet. Add to any cereal (porridge or an oat-based breakfast is best), or to natural yoghurt with some fruit. Try sprinkled over a salad. Whilst they may not be big on flavour, their health benefits are wonderful.
We know they work well with chia seeds, but oats have an incredible calming effect on the body. This is mainly down to them being high in all the B vitamins, plus they are packed with complex carbohydrates. These work in the opposite way to refined carbs which send blood sugar levels soaring together with anxiety levels. Instead they keep blood sugar levels balanced and therefore help you to stay on an even keel.
Oats are very high in fibre which helps keep the bowels moving smoothly. Constipation causes toxicity in the body, which aggravates the liver. This is turn can adversely affect mood, not least making you feel very sluggish.
If porridge isn’t for you, then why not soak oats overnight in a little apple juice or, better still, some almond milk. Then add some natural yoghurt and fruit in the morning for a super-quick but super stress-busting breakfast. You can even add chopped almonds and chia seeds for a triple-hit breafast!
Mother nature has delivered some amazing ways of keeping us balanced, emotionally and physically. So, why not try adding these stress-relieving favourites to your diet.
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