If the hustle and bustle of this time of year has you feeling overwhelmed and stressed, you may need to add some calming foods to your diet.
December is here and that means it’s the holiday season! And when you're feeling stressed, don’t forget that what you eat can really affect how you feel. In fact, nature has provided us with foods that are known to have calming effects. There are also certain combinations of foods that can leave you feeling clam, satisfied and nourished.
For the most part, calming foods are easy to digest and contain nutrients that can relax the nervous system or boost mood naturally. As a holiday treat, here are a few suggestions on how to naturally promote relaxation through food and drink and infuse some calm into your life this frantic season.
Chamomile, another very popular relaxation aid, has been used since ancient times and is known to promote general relaxation and relieve stress. It can even combat inflammation. Chamomile tea has been used a mild sleep aid and can help with digestion. Its leaves can be found dried as tea and has a very pleasant and calming aroma.
Omega-3s: try eating foods that are rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts, salmon, sardines, flax seed, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and omega-3 fortified eggs. Omega-3s are essential for optimal brain health. Omega-3s also have an anti-inflammatory effect that may help in pain relief.
Tryptophan: did you feel relaxed after dinner this Thanksgiving? Turkey is rich in the essential amino tryptophan; and while it can make you sleepy, tryptophan also aids in the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can elevate your mood and ward off depression. Serotonin also helps promote adequate sleep. Combining tryptophan-containing foods with complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, increases absorption and aids in the production of serotonin. In addition to turkey, foods that contain notable levels of tryptophan include shrimp, spinach, chicken, tuna, soybeans, milk, salmon, and eggs. Vegetables like asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower are also great sources.
Zinc rich foods such as spinach, lamb, and grass-fed beef can also have calming effects, as they help to stabilize metabolic rate, balance blood sugar, and aid in the optimal function of the immune system. Zinc is a trace mineral, essential for growth and development of all cells in our bodies, and thus a deficiency can lead to a litany of problems. Other good sources of zinc include calf's liver, shrimp, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, and crimini mushrooms.
Water is essential for every function in the body, but during busy days it’s one of the easiest things to forget! Drinking at ½ cup every hour that you are awake can help supply adequate energy, relieve headaches and head congestion, and generally help you think straight during hectic holiday times. It also helps with proper digestion. Drink plenty of filtered water throughout the day to remain hydrated, feeling calm, and healthy.
If you're feeling especially anxious, try decreasing your caffeine intake, limit coffee and tea drinking to earlier in the day. Remember, some sodas and diet sodas also contain caffeine, sometimes in significant amounts; read labels carefully.
The holidays should be fun and enjoyable! Use the above list as a guide to keep you feeling relaxed and calm through the holiday season and as we transition into 2016!