When we feel stressed, we naturally reach for carb-filled comfort food like pasta, pies and puddings in an attempt to temporarily lift our mood. But that’s just the issue, ‘comfort food’ supplies you with a short spike of energy and happiness but is quickly followed by a feeling of sluggishness and often a regret of indulging in stodgy foods.
Here Kirsty Henshaw, founder of Kirsty’s, range of naturally healthy and free-from ready meals, runs through five stress busting foods to lift your mood.
As we lead up to one of the busiest periods of the year, juggling family, a social life and work responsibilities whilst preparing for Christmas, it’s hard not to feel stressed at times.
However, there is good news as recent research has revealed that there are actually foods that have the power to help lift your mood in the face of stress and what’s even better, the foods in question are actually really good for us too!
So, let’s start with my favourite… chocolate. This sweet treat is one of the best foods to beat those ‘fight-or flight’ hormones and induce happiness. In fact, researchers have discovered that one average-sized dark chocolate bar every day (we’re talking over 70% cocoa) for a fortnight can reduce the stress levels dramatically. The antioxidant properties of chocolate and in particular dark chocolate, house the added benefit of having the ability to lower blood pressure which, in turn, puts the heart under less stress.
Whilst on the topic of sweet treats, blueberries are also a great stress busting food as well as other berries, such as strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. Oozing with anthocyanin, an antioxidant which is linked to improving cognitive processes they’re also packed full of Vitamin C which has been proved successful in the fight against stress. A group of researchers in Germany asked 120 people to give a speech, followed by solving mathematical problems. Those who had been given Vitamin C had lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol after the stressful session had finished.
Nuts about nuts? Well, cashews are also on the list of foods that can help prevent and alleviate symptoms of stress and they can also help alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression. This is largely down to their richness in Vitamin B6 and magnesium, the perfect mix of vitamins and mineral for a health mood. Vitamin B6 helps with the absorption of serotonin, a chemical that helps with everything from eating to sleeping and is a natural mood stabiliser, whilst magnesium fights low levels of blood sugar which can contribute to anxiety.
Asparagus is such a versatile vegetable. It’s naturally high in folate which is ideal for any woman who, like me, is expecting a baby or has just given birth as it’s been linked to improving the symptoms of perinatal mental health problems. This is because folate encourages the creation and absorption of neurotransmitters and folic acid which plays a key part in alleviating symptoms of perinatal blues.
For those who love to add lots of garlic whilst cooking, keep cooking! Known as one of the world’s healthiest foods, the plant is packed full of allicin, a compound which is commonly linked with preventing heart disease, cancer and the common cold. With these properties, garlic gives us a helping hand when our bodies are under stress from illness and helps us recover faster.
If you’re someone who’s prone to stress, integrating these foods into your diet (within moderation of course) could really lift your mood and even prevent feelings of stress, anxiety and depression in the long term. Next time you’re feeling anxious or down, reach for some cashews in place of crisps or berries in place of sweets and revel in the feeling of the stress draining from your body, without the inevitable lethargy that comes from snacks high in carbohydrates
The Kirsty’s range of healthy and nutritious gluten-free, dairy-free and wheat-free chilled ready meals was launched in 2012 by Kirsty Henshaw.Kirsty appeared on Dragon’s Den, where she secured a healthy investment in her allergen-free frozen desserts. They have proved hugely popular with people who have Coeliac disease, and individuals with food allergies and intolerance’s. You can find more recipe videos, and information both on her YouTube channel, and her website.