Many of us lead hectic lives where we rush from a demanding job and family life, to a full-on social life, giving little thought to our body’s desire to relax. If you find it hard to wind down after a demanding day, or need to introduce a little extra calmness into your weekend then try adding the following foods into your diet:
Oats have many health benefits: they contain beta-glucans which supports the immune system, and lowers cholesterol; they are packed full of fibre which means that they release their energy slowly, which means more sustained energy levels for you and I; and they are an excellent source of selenium which is a powerful antioxidant and an important mineral for thyroid function. In addition to all this they also contain good levels of tryptophan which promotes good mood and sleep.
Remember Beatrix Potter’s Flopsy Bunnies? They ate so much prized lettuce that Farmer McGregor was able to pick them up and pop them in his sack, to take them home for the pot. The milky sap that oozes from lettuce when it is cut contains the chemical Lactucarium, a sedative and pain reliever, structurally similar to opium, but not nearly as strong. In some cultures lettuce is served at the end of an evening meal because of its soporific qualities.
Magnesium rich foods
Magnesium is a mineral which is vital for nerve function, and a common sign of deficiency is muscle twitching and restless legs. We use up large quantities of Magnesium when we are stressed or exhausted, and a twitching eyelid is often a sign that we are doing too much. To boost your magnesium intake eat plenty of nuts, seeds and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard, broccoli, cucumbers and green beans. Another relaxing way to increase your magnesium levels is to take a bath in Epsom Salts.
Dark chocolate is packed full of antioxidants, and as a result is good for heart health and the immune system. But it also has other benefits – it can lower cortisol (the stress hormone) and it stimulates your brain to produce opiods which make you feel good. Make sure you choose a good quality dark chocolate, the higher the cocoa content, the better – at least 70%. But beware! Don’t eat too much dark chocolate in the evening as it does contain caffeine which could hinder a good night’s sleep.
Milk and other dairy products
Calcium, the mineral which is found in milk and dairy products has a sedative effect on the body, and explains why many of us were given milky drinks at bedtime. Dairy products are also high in tryptophan, which the body converts into serotonin, a feel good neurotransmitter – good levels of which are needed for sufficient melatonin, the sleep inducing hormone.
Chamomile is renowned for its calming properties and is a great tea to take in the evening before bedtime. Its relaxing benefits are due to high levels of a chemical called apigenin, which in clinical trials has been proven to reduce anxiety.
So why not try adding a few of these foods and drinks to your diet and see if you can induce a greater sense of calm.