Dietary support for reducing feelings of stress

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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.

A bowl of oats

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.

Bowl of porridge topped with blueberries and raspberries

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.

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

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. 

Fillet of salmon with some steamed asparagus

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.

shutterstock_391949488 green tea Nov16

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.

Stay well.

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Boost your protein at every meal with these great food ideas

Every cell in the body needs protein; it’s required for growth and repair, enzyme and hormone production and plays a key role in creating antibodies which fight off infection as part of the immune system.  Generally, around 15-20% of our calorie intake should come from protein.  So what should we be eating?

Clinical Nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her tips for including protein at every meal time!

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POWER BREAKFAST

In many ways, breakfast is actually the most important meal of the day.  It is a key opportunity for the body to be refuelled with essential nutrients.  Eating breakfast is vital because blood sugar levels are low after a night’s sleep and the body needs feeding in order to provide sustained energy for the day.

Top of the list for best breakfast choice would be eggs; they’re a complete protein source, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids the body needs and which it cannot make. The main reason we need protein in our diet is to supply the eight essential amino acids and eggs provide these.

If eggs are not for you, how about a designer muesli instead?  If you mix up some oats, barley flakes, rye flakes, wheat germ, seeds and add some chopped apricots and raisins, you’ve got a tasty and nutritious breakfast.  All these grains all contain protein.  This muesli can be mixed up and stored for a while; a portion can also be soaked overnight in milk or apple juice, making it easier to digest in the morning.  Even better, all the grains are slow energy-releasing, which means they’ll keep you going through the day plus they’re also packed with energising B vitamins.

VITALITY LUNCH

Lunch often has to be prepared quickly or transported to the office or place of work.  But this shouldn’t stop you from including a choice of protein and colourful foods.

Chicken noodle salad is a good example of something that can be made in advance with cooked chicken breast or left-over chicken, rice noodles, baby corn, sliced carrot, soy sauce, garlic and shredded cabbage or spinach leaves.  However, if you’re vegetarian you can swap the chicken for tofu or prawns and you’ve got a really quick, nourishing salad.  The protein (chicken, prawns or tofu) can either be eaten hot or cold.

Another high protein and energising carbohydrate lunch can be found in a spicy bean salad. Beans are low on the glycaemic index but also contain good amounts of protein.  Tinned mixed beans can be combined with tomato, cooked French beans, coriander and Tabasco sauce along with your favourite dressing.  Easy, quick, delicious and sustaining!

DINNER DELIGHTS

Protein is found in so many different foods, which means there’s a wealth of dishes on offer for dinner.  Animal protein includes red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, dairy products, and eggs.  Animal proteins generally contain all the amino acids whereas plant-based proteins don’t.  However, by carefully combining grains with beans, for example, you can get all the essential acids you need.

Quinoa, which has a very similar texture to couscous, has a really good amino acid profile, making it a great protein source whether you’re vegetarian or not. Quinoa works really well as an easy dinner dish with roasted vegetables.

If you’ve had eggs for breakfast, chicken for lunch, then how about some protein-packed fish for dinner?  Oily fish such as trout is absolutely delicious and is also packed with omega-3 fats which are great for the brain, skin and heart.  Any oily fish can be really simply cooked in a baking dish, drizzled with lemon and olive oil and served with some lightly toasted pine nuts and steamed vegetables.

Another excellent source of protein are lentils.  They’re also packed with fibre to keep the bowels super-healthy.  Lentils work really well with spinach; whilst you’re cooking some brown lentils, chop some coriander, cumin and garlic.  These can be briefly stir-fried before adding to the pan with some spinach.  All the flavours combine really well together and you’ll be getting some energising iron from the spinach as well as some heart-loving garlic.

With so many protein options available, your body can be properly fuelled and nourished all day long.

FOR MORE GREAT DIET AND LIFESTYLE ADVICE:

Sign up to receive our blog and get a weekly dose of the latest nutrition and health advice direct to your inbox.

Follow us on Twitter @feelaliveuk for nutrition, lifestyle and well-being tips.

Visit us at www.feelaliveuk.com for the latest offers and exclusive Alive! content.

Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts