It’s possible for certain foods to help you relax, so try these de-stressing ingredients.
We don’t need to tell you that we’re currently living through a high-stress period. The words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘new normal’ have never been used so much, yet neither of them give great comfort to anyone. That means that mental health, and how to protect yours, is at the forefront of many conversations right now.
But did you know that what you eat can support your mental health? Much like a mug of milk makes you feel sleepy or a banana gives you a boost before exercising, what we eat can sometimes impact how we feel.
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How gut health affects our emotions and mood
According to GP Dr Clare Bailey, the long term effects of our diet is what we should be keeping in mind - not what one meal can do for us. And that’s because of the impact of food on the microbes in our digestive system: “Amongst other things microbes produce neurotransmitters. These chemicals convey messages from the gut, through the nervous system to the brain – impacting our mood and anxiety levels. 80% of our serotonin (our happy hormone) is produced in the gut, so the healthier the gut the more emotionally resilient we are.”
So what should we include in our diet in order to make our gut and our brains feeling at their best? Try these mood boosting ingredients.
Salmon is rich in omega-3s, which plays a crucial role in supporting neurotransmitters. “Studies also show fatty acids can reduce signs of inflammation and prevent the dysfunction of brain cells that can lead to development of disorders such as anxiety,” says Anne-Marie O’Shea, head of school of nutrition at Future Fit Training.
“By consuming adequate amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, you can promote your brain’s ability to adapt to change which in turn allows you to better handle stressors which trigger symptoms of anxiety.”
This is known as a bedtime tea for a reason – it contains an antioxidant called apigenin which makes us sleepy. This process can also help ease anxiety and relax us. But there’s also the benefit of swapping out stimulants like coffee and energy drinks, commonly associated with anxiety and stress, in favour of this relaxing drink.
Yoghurt is packed with probiotics which promote a healthy gut, which as we know, translates to your brain. But probiotic foods such as yogurt can also promote positive mental health through “inhibiting free radicals and neurotoxins, which are able to damage nerve tissues in the brain and contribute to the development of anxiety,” says Anne-Marie. “Remember though, that not all kinds of yogurt contain probiotics, so to reap the benefits of probiotics make sure that you chose yogurts which have live active cultures listed as an ingredient on the packaging.”
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).