You can improve your mood and improve your health by eating the right foods, cutting your caffeine intake and making sure you absorb enough iron.
Diet – Food & Drinks that May Reduce Stress
A recent question about St John’s Wort submited to the health correspondent of a National newspaper provoked a good selection of suggestions about food that can help lower stress.
Q. I’ve read that St John’s Wort won’t help with anxiety but that passion flower supplements may. What can I eat or drink to curb stress and anxiety?
Can St Johns Wort improve mood and reduce stress?
The reply began – St John’s Wort has been used for centuries to treat psychological disorders. More recently it has been used in cases of mild depression.
However, in new research reviewing 24 studies on supplements frequently used to combat stress and anxiety, it did not fare well. It is this finding that may make users think twice, or swap to passion flower which impressed the researchers more.
But before you try either of these herbal remedies, there are some really simple tweaks you could make to your daily meals that may reduce stress.
Simple changes to daily meals that may reduce stress
Firstly, make sure that you are sufficiently hydrated. Even slight dehydration can leave you uptight and grumpy. If you are drinking plenty enough your urine will be a pale straw colour. Women should make sure also that they are getting enough iron. Almost half of women up to age of 34 (and probably lots over that age), have woefully poor intakes of iron. Problems associated with not getting enough iron include difficulty concentrating, feeling tired and feel unable to cope.
Healthy foods good for iron include fortified breakfast cereals, red meat and dark oily fish such as sardines, mussels and dark crabmeat, baked beans, peas, dried apricots and dark green vegetables.
To optimise absorption of iron avoid tea and have foods rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits and juices, berries and peppers).
A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement with 50-75 per cent of the recommended intake of iron — 14.8mg a day — is probably better than money spent on passion flower.
Make sure that you eat regularly to keep blood sugar levels stable. Slow-release carbohydrates such as porridge, muesli, granary and pitta bread, tortilla wraps, noodles and sweet potatoes and fruit can all help.
Magnesium supplements were mentioned in the research as being a possible stress-buster. If they do help, it is probably by helping muscles relax. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds, mixed nuts and again, peanut butter are particularly good sources of magnesium.
Caffine, stress and high blood pressure
No advice on reducing stress and anxiety would be complete without mentioning caffeine intake — limit yourself to a few cups of coffee or tea a day and avoid caffeine-rich energy drinks and cola. Too much caffeine increases heart rate and raises blood pressure and triggers palpitations. It is hard to keep your nerves in check if you have this central nervous system stimulant coursing around your body.
And finally, as camomile has been shown to act on the same centres in our brains as anti-anxiety drugs, it is probably worth having a few cups of camomile tea a day.