Calming Foods For a Healthy December
This year is a year like no other. We’ve all had to deal with changes in how we live and interact with one another. We are living with uncertainty, no one knowing how things will unfold as time goes on. But, it has also been a year where we’ve learnt to appreciate the simple pleasures and to feel gratitude for what we have.
Christmas is potentially a wonderful, joy filled time of togetherness, free from the pressures of every day life. However, even at the best of times it can be stressful, especially if you are the host, trying to meet everyone’s needs. This year is likely to be unusual and there may be pressure to make it particularly special. This can take its toll mentally and physically.
It’s now clear that our diet and lifestyle play a big part in our mental and physical well being. Here we’ll look at some plant foods that can help to nourish the adrenal glands and calm the nervous system. For more information see blog posts 7 Easy Self Care Rituals and Calming Christmas Recipes.
Calming foods to keep in stock:
- Oats – are calming to the nervous system. Get off to a good start with porridge or muesli for breakfast.
- Brown rice – contains tryptophan, an amino acid that converts to serotonin and melatonin in the brain. Serotonin is a feel good brain chemical and melatonin is a sleep hormone that is also thought to have anti-ageing effects.
- Almonds – are rich in magnesium which relaxes muscles and nerves. Magnesium is needed by the adrenal glands in the stress response so it can become depleted if stress is chronic. Nuts, in general, make an excellent healthy snack so keep some in stock and carry a few with you when out and about.
- Tahini – a good source of calcium, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins, all of which are needed by the nervous system.
- Pumpkin seeds – are a great source of zinc which is often depleted in times of stress. Toast them and sprinkle onto cereal or salads or eat them as they are as a snack.
- Hemp seeds – contain a good balance of the omega 3 and 6 essential fats that are needed for brain function, hormone balance and energy. Hulled hemp seeds are soft and digestible.
- Celery – blood pressure may rise during periods of stress. Traditionally celery has been used to lower high blood pressure. This may be due to the balance of sodium and potassium it contains, both of which are needed in correct ratios for cardiovascular function.
- Lettuce – contains calming compounds as well as magnesium needed for relaxation of muscles and nerves.
- Fermented foods – these contain pre and probiotics which can affect the health of the microbiome. The microbiome affects many aspects of health including sleep, mood and behaviour. There are many types of fermented foods including kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tamari, yoghurt, kefir and kombucha. You can make your own or buy ready prepared products.
- Chocolate – contains chemicals known to boost mood. Go for good quality chocolate with high cocoa content or raw cacao.
- Herbal teas – such as chamomile, lime flowers, tulsi and lemon balm all have a calming effect on the nervous system.
- Water – stress creates dehydration and dehydration creates stress in the body. Stay hydrated with warm water and herbal teas.
The following foods all create stress in the body so reduce or avoid them:
- Sugar – upsets blood sugar levels leading to highs and lows of energy and mood swings as well as cravings for more. Avoiding sugar can help you to stay on an even keel.
- Highly Processed Foods – are low in nutrients and fibre and high in empty calories. The best way to avoid these is to cook from scratch.
- Margarines and processed fats – processed fats are strongly implicated in many disease states including heart disease and cancer so are best avoided completely.
- Additives – we are not designed to deal with additives so they are always going to create stress in the body. Many additives affect the liver and nervous system in a negative way. They are not necessary and not beneficial.
- Artificial Sweeteners – interfere with appetite and the balance of organisms in the gut. They are also associated with weight gain rather than weight loss.
- Alcohol – alcohol in moderation may have some beneficial effects but too much is likely to lead to negative consequences for mental and physical health.