Stress, in all forms, can play havoc with your health and take its toll. Eating the right foods can be restorative and provide relief.
As a registered Nutritional Therapist and sports nutritionist, a majority of people I work with have some element of stress in their lives.
Here are three great foods and drinks to include in your diet than will help reduce feelings of stress and improve your health and performance.
Salmon, and all types of oily fish such as sardines and mackerel, are packed full of DHA, an active compound in omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Several studies have shown that a higher intake of omega-3 effectively decreases anxiety. Omega 3 fats also balance fluctuating hormones by reducing the production of 'stress' hormones, such as adrenaline, helping you feel calmer.
WHO recommendations are to consuming two portions of oily fish per week. This could be achieved simply and cheaply by eating one salmon fillet and one tin of sardines in a week.
Like all leafy green vegetables spinach is packed full of vitamins and minerals.
Most especially, spinach is rich in magnesium which is a vital nutrient for promoting relaxation and good quality sleep.
Spinach also contains folate which helps your body effectively regulate mood, and plenty of iron to improve energy levels.
Raw or cooked spinach? Pros and cons.Raw spinach contains oxalic acid, a compound which can interfere with the absorption of some nutrients like iron and calcium. Oxalic acid is broken down when heated; however when spinach is cooked, levels of vitamin C, folate and magnesium are reduced. A mixture of raw and cooked is usually best.
Herbal teas are particularly helpful for stress relief, partly because we tend to drink more of them as the same time as reducing consumption of caffeinated drinks.
Peppermint and ginger are soothing to the gut and calm the nervous system, which helps reduce feelings of stress.
Chamomile tea studies report the that herb has the ability to relax the digestive system, reduce irritability and promote more restful sleep.
Valerian root, the active constituent in valerian herbal teas, has been shown to reduce anxiety and improved sleep quality.
These are just three foods (and drinks) that help reduce feelings of stress. There are plenty of others that are great too.
And don't forget the foods that make stress feel worse. I'm talking sugar, alcohol and caffeine.
Lifestyle factors, including exercise, getting outside in the daylight, and proper sleep hygiene are also vital for stress management.
Ideally you want to be thinking in a holistic, whole body way, not just what you eat.
What do you feel hinders how you deal with stress the most? What would help you most?
If you need any guidance about where to start please do get in touch
Wishing you health and happiness x
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Helen Morton, registered Nutritional Therapist and sports nutritionist, runner and food lover, sharing latest nutrition research and recipes.