As the holidays quickly creep up, an overwhelming sense of urgency begins as we have an abundance of events and dinners to attend or plan and an ever-growing social calendar.

What’s meant to be one of the most relaxing and enjoyable times of the year can quickly become the most anxiety inducing!

I know that no matter how these next couple of weeks shape up, we all need to take steps to look after our minds, bodies, and souls – and each other. These last two years have been increasingly stressful – and something like planning a Christmas dinner, which seems simple at first, may be the final straw that sends you into panic mode. Know that you’re not alone and it’s okay to feel this way.

I firmly believe you can take back your mental and physical health with good food and lifestyle habits. So, if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed you may reach for certain foods to make you feel better. This isn’t a problem, so long as the foods that you’re eating are actually helping you manage your stress and not making the situation worse.

In this week’s post, you’re going to discover 6 foods proven to help boost your feel-good hormones, lower your blood pressure, and manage blood sugar levels, which will help you balance your moods and feel calmer:

1. Spinach

 Why it works: Spinach and other dark leafy greens are rich in folate which helps your body produce serotonin and dopamine, regulating your mood. Spinach is also high in magnesium which helps to lower high blood pressure. The body becomes depleted of magnesium when under stress, so getting plenty of magnesium through spinach is a great way to bring your body back to balance.

How to eat it: Add a cup of spinach leaves to your morning smoothie or create a healthy bed of baby spinach leaves to eat with a couple of poached eggs for breakfast.

2. Avocado

Why it works: Avocados contain 20 essential health-boosting nutrients, including potassium, vitamin E, B vitamins, and folate. According to research published in the Nutrition Journal, avocados keep you satiated throughout the day and are helpful for regulating blood sugar levels, which helps to keep your mood steady even in times of stress.

How to eat it: Avocado is so versatile you can add it to almost anything or eat it on its own for a pick-me-up snack. Add avocado to your morning smoothies, chop it up and put it in your salad, whip it up in your blender to make a guacamole dip or even use it in a dessert to curb those sweet cravings!

3. Salmon

Why it works: Salmon is an excellent source of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids which help regulate your hormones and brighten your mood. Salmon also contains zinc, which is often depleted in the body in times of stress.

How to eat it: Breakfast, lunch or dinner! This delicious protein is great with eggs for breakfast, pan-fried in coconut oil and partnered with a side salad for lunch, or why not try it with a simple mango salsa for an easy but impressive dinner? For a quick and easy bite to eat when you’re busy, have a salmon nori roll to get the added benefit of the seaweed’s vitamins and minerals.

4. Dark Chocolate

Why it works: Magnesium deficiency is linked to anxiety and stress, so you don’t have to feel guilty about a few bites of chocolate when you’re stressed. Good quality dark chocolate contains magnesium and zinc to give you a healthy boost.

How to eat it: Have a few pieces of high-quality dark chocolate as a snack when you’re stressed.

5. Walnuts

Why it works: Walnuts contain a plant form of Omega- 3 fatty acid that the body converts into docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to lower norepinephrine, a hormone which can make you feel anxious and irritable.

How to eat it: Add a sprinkling of walnuts to your salad at lunch.

6. Sesame Seeds

Why it works: Stress and anxiety tend to deplete your body of zinc, and our bodies need zinc for both the immune and nervous systems. Sesame seeds hold around 10 mg of zinc per 100 g serving, whether you eat them raw, toasted or ground.

How to eat it: Sesame seeds ground into butter, known as tahini, is delicious with salads or as a dip with a few veggie sticks for a quick and easy snack. Tahini is also a core ingredient for hummus!

If you know you’re a ‘comfort eater’ when you’re stressed, stock up on these healthy, calming foods to help you balance your emotions and keep your calm.

I’d love to hear how you’re incorporating these foods into your holiday meals.

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