Foods to help you relax

If someone asked you to choose one thing that you could have more of in your everyday life, what would it be?

More money? More free time to do the things you love? More time with family? More time to study?  How long would it take for you to say, ‘more time to relax’?

Could you honestly say that in your busy day/week/month – in between working, studying AAT, family commitments and social events – you schedule enough time purely for yourself to relax?

My guess is no.

You know that when you’re tired, eating bad foods and feeling overworked, your memory doesn’t perform as well as you want to.

There are the well-known ways to relax such as:

  • having a hot bubble bath
  • curling up in a comfy armchair with a cup of tea and a good book
  • exercising for a release of endorphins (the feel good hormone)
  • and having a technology free start to the day.

There are also certain foods we can eat to help reduce cortisol and catecholamine (the stress hormones) and relax that little bit more.

Great news for us students.

Eggs

Eggs are a great source of essential amino acids; one of which is tryptophan. Our bodies need this to create serotonin which is a neuro-chemical needed to relax the brain.

Key tip: poach two fresh free range eggs on top of mashed avocado on toast for a protein packed, nutritious breakfast.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts are packed full of zinc, magnesium, vitamins E and B complex, which all help the brain relax when eaten often.

Pumpkin and chia seeds are also rich in magnesium and protein, which also help to balance stress levels in the body and relax muscles.

Mix up a few clear food bags of a mixture of nuts, seeds and dried raisins for a healthy mid-morning or afternoon snack.

Key tip: steer clear of large amounts of peanuts which have high sodium content. This can increase ‘brain fog’ and put strain on your heart and stress on your body.

Honey

Like eggs, honey also contains a high amount of tryptophan which has been proven to reduce anxiety and relax nerves. Honey is also an infection fighting, nutritional powerhouse containing potassium, which is also great for soothing overworked brain muscles.

Potassium fights off stress hormones and acids in the body, overall relaxing the nervous system.

Key tip: drink a mug of hot water, a slice of lemon and a teaspoon of pure honey before breakfast to clear toxins in the body that have built up overnight.

Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate and cacao (pure, raw, unrefined chocolate and one of the best natural sources of magnesium) balance stress levels in the brain due to their high contents of dopamine, endorphin and serotonin hormones.

Be sure to eat high percentage dark chocolate (e.g. look at Green & Blacks labels, you want 70% and above) and if opting for the superfood cacao, look for companies that offer unrefined, raw, organic cacao in its most natural form possible.

Whole Foods offer a really great selection of pure cacao products.

But avoid supermarket chocolate bars which are packed with refined sugars. Your body struggles to digest this kind of processed food, therefore adding more stress to our bodies and reducing our ability to relax.

Key tip: mix four teaspoons cacao powder, one cup unsweetened almond milk, a quarter of a teaspoon turmeric, one teaspoon vanilla extract, and two teaspoons coconut sugar in a saucepan and heat on low for eight minutes until gently bubbling, for a delicious, relaxing superfood hot chocolate.

Broccoli and spinach

Low potassium levels lead to fatigue, anxiety, tiredness and increased irritability. So what great news it is that we have delicious ingredients like broccoli and spinach in our lives to avoid a potassium deficiency!

These two leafy greens pack a high dose of potassium, beta carotene and vitamins C and E, all which strength our immune system and help steer off anxiety and fatigue – enemies of relaxation.

Key tip: stir fry broccoli florets, spinach, winter squash, peppers, red onion and carrots in garlic, coconut oil and tamari and serve with buckwheat noodles for a gluten free, potassium packed veggie stir fry.

In summary

As you can see, it’s vital we have a consistent dose of potassium, magnesium, vitamins and amino acids in our diets to steer off unwanted negative feelings, and to help our bodies and minds to relax whilst we have so much going on in our everyday lives.

Review your weekly diary – where can you fit in more relaxation time and how can you incorporate some of these foods into your diet?

Read more on staying calm while studying;

Browse the full range of AAT study support resources here

Chloe McGuire is an AAT student and health blogger.

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