This week I am thrilled to be sharing a post by Emily Fawell of 4wellpeople. Emily is a friend & colleague, whose work as a Nutritional Therapist I greatly admire. In this post she gives some simple, practicable ideas on how best to use our nutrition as an aid to relaxation…
Relaxing foods are precious resources for all of us leading hectic lives. Every day, we rush from a demanding job and family life, to a full-on social life, giving little thought to our body’s desire to relax.
If you find it hard to wind down after a demanding day, or need to introduce a little extra calmness into your weekend, then try adding the following relaxing foods into your diet…
Oats have many health benefits: they contain beta-glucans which support the immune system, and lower cholesterol; they are packed full of fibre which means that they release their energy slowly, which means more sustained energy levels; and they are an excellent source of selenium which is a powerful antioxidant and an important mineral for thyroid function. In addition to all this, they also contain good levels of tryptophan which promotes good mood and sleep.
Remember Beatrix Potter’s Flopsy Bunnies? They ate so much prized lettuce that Farmer McGregor was able to pick them up and pop them in his sack, to take them home for the pot. The milky sap that oozes from lettuce when it is cut contains the chemical Lactucarium, a sedative and pain reliever, structurally similar to opium, but not nearly as strong. In some cultures, lettuce is served at the end of an evening meal because of its soporific qualities.
MAGNESIUM RICH FOODS
Magnesium is a mineral which is vital for nerve function, and a common sign of deficiency is muscle twitching and restless legs. We use up large quantities of Magnesium when we are stressed or exhausted, and a twitching eyelid is often a sign that we are doing too much. To boost your magnesium intake eat
- plenty of nuts,
- and dark green leafy vegetables such as
- and green beans.
Another relaxing way to increase your magnesium levels is to take a bath in Epsom Salts.
Dark chocolate is packed full of antioxidants, and as a result is good for heart health and the immune system. But it also has other benefits – it can lower cortisol (the stress hormone) and it stimulates your brain to produce opioids which make you feel good.
Make sure you choose a good quality dark chocolate, the higher the cocoa content, the better – at least 70%.
MILK AND OTHER DAIRY PRODUCTS
Calcium, the mineral which is found in milk and dairy products has a sedative effect on the body. This explains why many of us were given milky drinks at bedtime. Dairy products are also high in tryptophan, which the body converts into serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter – good levels of which are needed for sufficient melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone.
If you feel stressed out during the day try replacing regular tea with Green tea. Green tea has higher levels of a chemical called L-Theanine than other teas. L-Theanine promotes a state of relaxation in the brain. It does, however, contain some caffeine (less than regular tea or coffee) so if you are caffeine sensitive you could try a decaffeinated Green tea.
Chamomile is renowned for its calming properties and is a great tea to take in the evening before bedtime. Its relaxing benefits are due to high levels of a chemical called apigenin, which in clinical trials has been proven to reduce anxiety.
So why not try adding a few of these relaxing foods and drinks to your diet and see if you can induce a greater sense of calm?
If you have enjoyed this blog post, why not learn more about nutritional therapy and how it could help you if you are worried about your anxiety levels.