With a global pandemic still ongoing and Christmas not too far away, it’s no wonder that our nerves may be a little frayed. We know from ongoing data that many people’s mental wellbeing is not in great shape at the moment, and we could all do with lifestyle advice to help us feel a little calmer.
What we eat and drink can make a big difference to how we feel and there are some foods which can help support our bodies and our minds feel less stressed.
This International Stress Awareness Week, Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer shares 3 foods you can start adding to your diet.
Start the day with oats
There are a number of reasons why this is a great way to start the day. Firstly, oats are loaded with the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to produce our feel-good hormone serotonin.
Secondly, oats are rich in the mineral magnesium, often referred to as ‘nature’s natural tranquiliser’. Essentially, magnesium fulfils many important functions within the body, but it also works on the central nervous system; if you’re nerves are shredded, then it might be time to think about how much magnesium you have in the diet. Interestingly, it’s very often deficient in the typical western diet. This is largely because magnesium is found in whole grains, rather than refined ones which dominate western diets such as cakes, pastries, biscuits, white bread, white rice, and white pasta.
Importantly, your breakfast bowl should contain whole grain oats (the large ones!) which can be eaten in many ways. For a quick, easy win, why not soak the oats overnight in a little milk and apple juice. The retrieve from the fridge in the morning, top with berries and natural yoghurt and you’ve got one of the best starts to the day!
Opt for fish
There are many good reasons for including fish in the diet. However, it’s oily fish, including salmon, which has the most health benefits and can help calm the nerves. Salmon is very high in the omega-3 fats which are critical for brain health; low levels of omega-3s have been linked to anxiety and depression.
Why not have some delicious smoked salmon with your salad for lunch or with poached eggs for breakfast. You’ll still be gaining all the wonderful health benefits. Salmon also makes a great dinner option and can quickly and easily be cooked in the oven in foil with some lemon juice, butter, and dill, if you have some.
It’s important to recognise that farmed fish are often contaminated with unwanted. Always try to buy wild Alaskan salmon which has a much more distinctive pink colour. This is because wild salmon naturally eat an alga called astaxanthin, which turns salmon pink, and which is also an amazing antioxidant, further protecting our bodies and minds.
Go for green tea
Often just having a warm drink can help soothe the nerves. However green tea is a great option. This is because it contains the amino acid theanine, which can positively impact mood. Interestingly, there has been much research around theanine and its ability to reduce stress. Theanine works in a number of ways but essentially by raising GABA, one of our calming brain neurotransmitters.
Just like black tea, green tea naturally contains caffeine which will adversely affect the nervous system. However, theanine appears to counter any of its negative effects. Green tea is also rich in catechins which are powerful antioxidants which can help reduce inflammation in the brain, partly responsible for its ageing and degeneration. Aim to drink around three cups daily to enjoy the best effects.
As an aside, and if you’re looking to lose a few kilos before Christmas, green tea appears to have thermogenic effects, meaning it may temporarily uprate metabolism. Therefore, having a cup of green tea prior to your morning walk, run or workout could provide a wealth of health benefits.
So, if you’re feeling frazzled, try adding some of the above to your daily diet and support your wellbeing from the inside out.
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