The top foods to alleviate Christmas stress

By Nutrition Consultant, Jess Robinson

Bright lights, cheesy Christmas carols, impossible parking, bucket loads of food and crazy family get-togethers. Does this sound familiar? There’s a reason it’s called the ‘Silly Season’. While Christmas can be a time of joy and celebration, it tends to go hand in hand with stress, family obligations and hysteria. But did you know the type of foods you are consuming can largely impact your mood? Here are some foods to help reduce your holiday stress:

1. Salmon

Salmon and other oily fish such as tuna, sardines and mackerel are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids which contribute to our overall wellbeing. Especially the EPA and DHA fats which studies have proven can reduce anxiety and boost your mood. Aim to have 2 to 3 servings of salmon or other oily fish every week.

gloved hands picking green vegies

2. Leafy green vegetables

Vegetables like spinach, lettuce, kale, Boy choy and broccoli are rich in relaxing magnesium. Magnesium is a powerful mineral that helps to improve the physiological response to stress and helps to promote relaxation. Stress depletes the body of magnesium, placing you at a greater risk for depression. Make sure to get some of these protective vegetables into your everyday diet.

3. Oats

Not only are oats a warm and comforting breakfast, they also cause your brain to produce serotonin – the happy, feel-good hormone. Serotonin brings about a calm soothing feeling to combat stress. Oats are also a great source of fibre, to promote satiety and regulate bowel movements.

4. Blueberries

These little berries are bursting with antioxidants that stimulate the production of dopamine, which is connected to feelings of reward, satisfaction and a happy stable mood. All berries including strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries are full of vitamin C.

5. Avocado

These creamy fruits are great for de-stressing as they are rich in relaxing magnesium and tyrosine. Tyrosine stimulates the manufacture of dopamine, adrenalin and noradrenalin, neurotransmitters which are involved in motivation, satisfaction and a happy stable mood. Make some tasty guacamole or add some to your salad, smoothie or crackers for a good dose of healthy fats.

dark chocolate

6. Dark chocolate

I’m sure you chocoholics out there will be happy to know you can enjoy some dark chocolate free of guilt. Dark chocolate, especially the type that contains 70 to 80% cocoa are rich in antioxidants which are known to lower blood pressure, promoting calmness. Dark chocolate also contains anandamide, a neurotransmitter that temporarily blocks feelings of pain and depression.

7. Oysters

Yes, oysters are well known for being aphrodisiacs, but did you know that they are also an excellent source of zinc? Zinc is a trace mineral that is essential for a strong immune system and has also been shown to decrease the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body.

8. Nuts

Stress depletes our body of magnesium and B vitamins, and snacking on nuts such as macadamias, almonds, walnuts and pistachios help us to replenish these stores. B vitamins boost energy levels, keep our neurotransmitters happy and enable us to handle the fight-or-flight stress response. Magnesium is required for a healthy nervous system and promotes relaxation.

9. Seeds

Seeds such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds are great for de-stressing as they are good sources of magnesium and tyrosine. Tyrosine assists memory and mental performance during stressful conditions and stimulates the neurotransmitters that promote a happy, stable mood. Magnesium is a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin, which is well-known for its role in controlling emotions and enhancing well-being.

Especially during the festive season, ensure to stock up on these foods to better your chances of having a stress-free, enjoyable Christmas. If you often find yourself overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, check out Dr Cabot’s book Help for Depression & Anxiety’.

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