Have you been feeling totally burnt out and frazzled lately? Are you finding it difficult to shut the persistent, meaningless mental chatter and stay focused? Does stress seem to be creeping in every aspect of your daily life and taking a toll on your performance, health, moods and even relationships?
Perhaps, it will help to know that you are not alone in this fight against deadlines, work pressures and stressful situations. And the better news is that the answer to our weary minds and exhausted bodies may lie in our kitchen cabinets. While the best way to melt the stress away and calm our nerves would be to take a beach holiday with family or join a meditational yoga class, studies have shown there are certain foods that may do the job just as well. If chosen wisely, foods certainly possess the power to alter our moods, clear our minds and put us in a happy, relaxed state. Interested? Read on.
How do Foods help to relax?
Whether we are stressed, depressed or angry, we often turn to foods for comfort. The cardinal rule, however, for using foods as relaxation aids is to stay away from fried snacks and sugary foods that may provide an instant rush but are going to mess up with the blood sugar levels and subject our bodies to unwanted sugar spikes and mood highs and lows later. The foods that we must include are those that provide our minds with a good dose of feel good ‘serotonin’; and are rich in magnesium, potassium and selenium (these micronutrients help to relax our nerves, muscles and induce calmness). The diet for relaxation must also include foods that stimulate the release of compounds known as ‘endorphins’ which help to fight the stress hormones away and promote a sense of well- being.
Here are best foods that you must add to your daily diet to not only nourish your body but also to soothe your mind.
What are the Top 6 Foods for Relaxation?
- Milk– A glass of warm milk at bedtime may do the trick for most of us. Milk contains an amino acid tryptophan that helps in the production of ‘serotonin’, a sleep inducing hormone. Besides providing essential amino acids, milk also contains calcium that helps to alleviate muscular spasms and joint pains and B vitamin riboflavin that help to relax the mind. Other good sources of tryptophan include honey, soybeans, eggs, and cottage cheese.
- Banana– Potassium is a key mineral responsible for maintaining optimum muscular strength, electrolyte balance (lack of potassium may lead to dehydration symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness and palpitations) and ease blood pressure. Bananas are exceptionally rich in potassium (420 mg in a medium sized banana), vitamin B6 and healthy sugars that collectively help to stimulate brain activity and reduce mental tension.
- Dark Chocolate– When it comes to lowering the levels of stress hormone, (especially cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine) and enhancing ‘feel good’ endorphin levels, the bitter sweet dark chocolates prove quite effective. So the next time, you feel your nerves tensing up, go for a couple of dark chocolate squares and you may beat the blues away. Just be careful to not overdo the chocolates as they are rich in sugar and fats and may stock up on calories and derail your weight loss goals.
- Brown Rice and Oats– Including complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, oats, millets and whole wheat impart a calming effect on the mind owing to their ability to boost the production of ‘happy’ serotonin. They also ensure a steady flow of glucose into our blood stream and keep cravings and erratic mood swings at bay.
- Nuts- Nuts are rich sources of vitamin E and selenium that play significant roles in improving cognitive thinking and mental clarity. Deficiency of these nutrients is known to step up anxiety, nervousness and depression. Nuts are also abundant in magnesium that is needed to keep our nerves and muscles relaxed.
- Green Tea – Calm your jittery nerves and brighten up your moods as you enjoy a cup of aromatic green tea or refreshing peppermint tea. The anti- inflammatory, anti- stress and anti-oxidant properties are attributed to presence of amino acid Ltheanine and potent flavonoids in green tea.
Written by Panchali Moitra, as published in B Positive Magazine