It’s been a difficult year – Covid-19 has had an impact on people worldwide and it’s normal that we are all feeling a bit stressed or anxious. Even the usually unflappable Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield shared recently that he has had moments of self-doubt and worry in 2020.
There are lots of things we can do to feel calmer and less anxious and one is to choose foods that contain nutrients that support our mental health and nervous system.
It’s one of the reasons I insist on using wholegrains in Te Atatu Toasted cereals. Wholegrains are rich in magnesium and the amino acid tryptophan, both of which have been shown to lessen anxiety and improve mood. They are also good for keeping blood sugar levels steady, which keeps you feeling full longer and stabilises mood. Wholegrains can also be a good source of potassium, another nutrient that plays a role in decreasing anxiety, and Vitamin B.
But wholegrains are not the only foods that will help you keep calm and carry on. Let’s have a look at some of the nutrients we need to keep anxiety at bay, and what foods we should be eating to increase our intake.
Selenium -several studies have shown that people with a higher selenium intake in their diet have lower levels of anxiety and depression.
Foods high in selenium: Brazil nuts, sunflower seeds (I use them in all my mueslis and my grain-free porridge), eggs, mushrooms, brown rice, tuna, chicken and beef.
Vitamin B –each of the B vitamins plays a role in helping your body manage stress symptoms.
Foods high in Vitamin B: Seeds and nuts, dark leafy vegetables, avocado, eggs.
Vitamin D –can also help balance your mood.
Foods high in Vitamin D: Eggs, mushrooms, salmon, tuna
Omega 3– this fatty acid is another nutrient that has been shown to reduce anxiety.
Foods high in Omega 3: Chia seeds, flaxseeds (in all the Te Atatu Toasted mueslis), salmon, sardines, walnuts
Potassium -potassium seems to act as a facilitator in ensuring the brain’s ability to properly utilise serotonin, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter. It can also help regulate blood pressure.
Foods high in potassium: Pumpkin seeds (also in all the Te Atatu Toasted mueslis), bananas, mushrooms, avocados, kumara, zucchini, cooked spinach and broccoli.
Magnesium - a natural muscle relaxer, which helps with anxiety, this mineral can also relieve fear, irritability, and restlessness.
Foods high in magnesium: Leafy greens, including spinach, legumes, nuts and seeds, almonds (a key ingredient in my grain-free porridge and in the Healthy and Original mueslis), bananas and dark chocolate.
And if you want to drink your way to a relaxed demeanor, opt for chamomile tea, which has proved to be effective in helping with anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Or whip up a turmeric latte - curcumin, the bioactive compound found in turmeric, has been linked to treating anxiety and depression, possibly because it boosts serotonin and dopamine levels.
Okay, so I’ve got breakfast sorted; now I’m off to the supermarket and will be making sure I put mushrooms, eggs and salmon in my trolley for dinner!