Nourishing, nutrient-dense foods enrich our health and well-being. They offer building blocks to support our physical and mental health; and when meals are shared together, our social wellbeing is supported too. Whether we are feeling stressed, tired or a little anxious, the foods we eat have a direct impact on how these emotions are processed. Nutrients not only help to counteract these feelings; they can also stop them from occurring. The body needs to have a healthy supply of nutrients to function effectively, and when we are stressed, the body’s requirement for certain nutrients increases. Therefore, it is important to know what foods you can turn to during times of need; food that feels good in our body to eat, as well as being good for you. Below are some of my favourite nourishing and nutrient-dense foods that I reach for when my wellbeing needs extra support.
Classified as a nervine, a herbal medicine which calms nerves, oats are a tonic to our nervous system. They help to soothe feelings of stress, anxiety, and nervous tension. Full of fibre, they also help to regulate blood sugar; keeping you feeling fuller for longer and providing a slow release of energy throughout the day.
Vitamin B’s help to regulate our nervous system, support the production of serotonin (our feel-good hormone) and protect our adrenal glands; walnut sized glands that sit above the kidney, releasing stress-related hormones. Brown rice is a wonderful source of many vitamin Bs, including vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid our anti-stress vitamin. As a wholegrain, brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, as it still contains the bran and germ.
Golden milk is known for its healing properties thanks to turmeric and its active constituent curcumin. Typically made from coconut milk, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and honey, golden milk is my favourite way to consume turmeric. Nourishing, detoxifying and inflammation reducing, turmeric also provides effective management of the emotional, behavioural and physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Known for their abundance of potassium, a mineral which regulates nerve function, bananas are also rich in tryptophan. Tryptophan is a protein which assists the production of serotonin (our feel-good hormone) and melatonin (our sleep hormone). Both serotonin and melatonin are essential for helping us to feel balanced throughout the day, and into the evening.
Magnesium releases nervous tension, decreases the release of cortisol (our stress hormone) and helps to improve our quality of sleep. Unfortunately, caffeine and alcohol deplete our magnesium levels, reducing our ability to absorb magnesium and enhancing its excretion. Luckily for chocolate lovers, cacao is a rich source of magnesium. Cacao can be consumed from a raw powder, as nibs, or in a good quality dark chocolate that is over 70%.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a critical role in supporting our wellbeing as they support the structure and function of the nerve cells and the communication of the nervous system throughout the body. Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids, meaning that the body cannot make them so they must be obtained from food. High fat foods such as salmon, avocado and chia seeds are a wonderful source of these oils.
Of course, we all have difference nutritional requirements and different foods we can or cannot tolerate. When you eat, take time to listen to your body to see how it responds to each bite, as well as how you feel the next day. Try and figure out which foods you love that support your nervous system to feel good to, so that next time you are feeling like your wellbeing glass is half full, you know how to top it up.
Written by Natasha Lubas, Naturopath & Medical Herbalist
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