Anxiety, stress, general unpleasant tension – most of us have experienced these feelings and would like to avoid them, or at least learn to manage them.
That’s why I’m delighted to introduce Meg Thompson to Engaging Women readers. She’s a qualified naturopath, holistic nutritionist and a passionate cook – who focusses largely on women’s and children’s health.
This mum doesn’t shout her views and expect people to listen. She is a subtle advocate for healthy living, who is happy to share her knowledge. (Yet another exquisite bird!)
In our first interview Meg, the brains behind My Wholefood romance, explains how food can help ease tension.
MH: Meg it seems modern life can cause even the most “chilled” of us to become anxious – often the most ridiculous things trigger this feeling. Can food help?
MT: Absolutely! Food is the basis of keeping all of this under control. Sure a glass of red wine is medicinal, but after the effects have worn off you are back where you started – and wine is not an ideal start to the day! Ha ha. When we’re stressed and anxious, our body rips through nutrients a lot faster than it would normally, leaving us low in certain key nutrients. Choosing to eat foods that contain high levels of these is a great start. Magnesium and B vitamins are the heavyweights here, along with Vitamin C and good quality protein. It’s also really important not to let yourself get dehydrated which feeds into the whole stress cycle.
On the flip side, certain food can add to our anxiety and stress, by leaching further nutrients from the body and feeding our anxiety. The culprits are refined sugar, processed foods, and caffeine. Keeping these to a minimum in times of stress is a good idea.
The body is smart, it’s just working out how to listen to what it wants that can be tricky. Have you ever noticed you often crave chocolate at stressful times? Or when you are premenstrual? Dark chocolate is actually a lovely source of magnesium. And a small amount of good quality dark chocolate is absolutely ok! Everything in moderation.
Exercise is obviously also extremely important here, and it doesn’t have to be a hard-core workout, just moving your body in some way every day is perfect! ( – but I’m not talking about that today! 🙂
MH:What foods would you suggest?
MT: Foods that are grounding for the nervous system, and also that provide lots of lovely nutrients to nourish our poor adrenal glands. Basically whole foods made with fresh ingredients are the way to go. There isn’t really any magic bullet here, but some great places to start are: green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, avocado, oats, quinoa, raw unsalted nuts and seeds, blueberries, beans, brown rice and tahini. Tahini is a great one – it’s a paste made from sesame seeds – in a pinch you can whack it on some nice toast with a little honey and banana and whoa you have yourself a winner! Oats are also particularly specific for the nervous system, and in herbal medicine we use a fluid extract to calm and relax.
MH: Have you had a personal experience in respect to ‘calming yourself’ with food that you may like to share with readers?
MT: This is quite topical for me at the moment. I am constantly telling people what they should and shouldn’t be doing to feel great, and I know exactly what to do, but it is often hard to make that time for yourself when you are under pressure. It’s like that phenomenon that carpenters always have unfinished work in their own house.. naturopaths are often the worst patients!
Anyway, I have been pushing myself a lot recently and got to the point the other day where I was completely frustrated and just couldn’t move forward. I was really annoyed that I just had to stop for lunch… then I said to myself ‘this is ridiculous,’ and went straight to the kitchen to make a crazy super smoothie – luckily I was working from home! It took all of about 3 minutes, plus I talked to the guinea pigs for a bit and shared some mindful breathing with them. The quality of my work and concentration improved about 400% after that!
It’s really important to keep your blood sugar regulated by eating regularly – up to every 2 hours if you’re stressed. Choose snacks and meals that have protein and some good fat to feed your brain. I love smoothies in this situation, and usually make them up in the morning and take them along to work with me in a jar.
MH: If there was one (just one) dietary change you would encourage us to make, what would it be?
MT: Oooh just one? Ok. Well I like to encourage people to eat more of the good stuff, following the theory that it will eventually crowd out the unhealthy stuff. So I would say get a blender and start blending! This is sometimes the only change that some of my patients make in the beginning, and the results can be fabulous! More energy is the main one, and who doesn’t need that? But also a veering towards craving more greens and veggies. The amount of gorgeous green goodness you can drink in a smoothie far outweighs what you could eat on a plate sitting in front of you, so it really gives your body a huge boost of nutrients, and also works towards alkalising your system. And it’s delicious!