Have you ever had your stress levels lower and mood improve when eating certain foods? That’s not just because prior to eating you were ‘hangry’, but because the foods we eat day to day can have a huge impact on our mood and emotional state.
With April marking the beginning of Stress Awareness Month, we speak to nutritionist Cassandra Barns to find out the top 5 stress-busting foods that can help bring about a sense of calm.
Yes, you read it right – chocolate can help you cope with stress. But not because of the comforting sugar hit. Cocoa (or cacao, in its raw form) is high in magnesium, which helps to calm the nervous system, and contains a natural chemical called phenylethylamine (PEA) that’s associated with good mood. So, for the best stress-busting effects, go for a high-cacao, lower-sugar dark chocolate, like Ombar’s 72% Raw Cacao Bar (RRP £1.99, Ocado).
Oats are a great food when it comes to coping with stress. They provide slow-releasing carbohydrates that help keep our blood sugar on an even keel, preventing peaks and dips that can actually trigger more stress hormones to be released and play havoc with our mood and energy, try Nairn’s Gluten-Free Scottish Porridge Oats (RRP £2, Sainsbury’s).
One of our best natural sources of magnesium and calcium – both of which can help calm the nervous system.
When you’re looking for a pick-me-up, coffee can be the obvious choice. But its over-stimulating effect can increase our body’s stress response and just make things worse! Green tea is a much better choice: although it does provide a small amount of caffeine, it also contains L-theanine, which has been found to have a relaxing effect on the mind, reduce anxiety, and help with focus and concentration.
These super-seeds are a fantastic source of both magnesium and zinc. Although zinc doesn’t have the direct nerve-relaxing effect that magnesium can, lack of zinc in our diets may contribute to stress-related problems such as anxiety and depression. They’re also a great source of protein, healthy fats and fibre that can help to keep blood sugar stable. As well as snacking on pumpkin seeds, try Clearspring’s Pumpkin Seed Protein powder (RRP £9.89, Revital, As Nature Intended & Independent Health Food Stores) – add to smoothies or stir into your porridge.