Whether you’re tired, bloated, stressed or hormonal, help is at hand. Karen Fittall discovers the food fixes for some everyday situations
“I’VE GOT AN EARLY START AND WANT TO GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP”
You need: two Brazil nuts and a glass of milk before bed.
Because: the milk is a good source of calcium and the nuts are packed full of selenium, two nutrients that lead to a good night’s sleep, say US researchers. While selenium will help you fall asleep, the calcium hit ensures the rest is a restorative one. And you don’t need more than two Brazil nuts – that’s the number to get your daily recommended dietary intake of selenium.
Tip: Make sure the milk is low fat. While eating or drinking things high in saturated fat does make you feel sleepy, they interfere with sleep quality when you finally nod off.
“I have a dry and dull complexion”
You need: a pumpkin salad dressed with flaxseed oil.
Because: the oil is a good source of plant-based omega-3s, a healthy polyunsaturated fat that decreases how much moisture your skin loses, and also helps to reduce redness, roughness and scaling. And pumpkin contains carotenoids, antioxidant pigments that, as well as giving the vegetable its orange-yellow colour, can brighten skin tone.
Tip: The carotenoids in the pumpkin are fat soluble, so they’re absorbed better when they’re eaten with a healthy fat. But don’t be tempted to roast the pumpkin in the flaxseed oil – heat destroys the oil’s polyunsaturated fats.
“I slept badly and i have an important meeting”
You need: eggs and a couple of soy lattes for breakfast.
Because: eggs and soy milk are rich sources of tyrosine, an amino acid that improves alertness as soon as it hits your system, say Dutch researchers. It’s thanks to the role tyrosine plays in the production of dopamine and epinephrine, neurotransmitters that keep the brain focussed. The caffeine in the latte will help too – after drinking three cups of coffee, women were able to perform tests 100 seconds faster, in a UK stress study.
Tip: Eat the whole egg, rather than having an eggwhite omelette, because it’s egg yolk that contains the tyrosine. And while all types of cooking reduce tyrosine levels by about 50 per cent, microwaves lower a food’s tyrosine content even further, so avoid using them.
“I’ve got a big day at work tomorrow and want to be at my best”
You need: a grass-fed steak for dinner.
Because: red meat is a great source of iron, and when you’re even mildly deficient, your ability to think and concentrate takes a hit, according to US researchers. And grass-fed beef contains more omega-3 fatty acids than the grain-fed variety, and they may help to soothe any nerves you might be feeling and could improve how well your memory performs.
Tip: Only cook the steak until it’s just reached ‘medium’ at most. Grass-fed cuts of beef are leaner than grain-fed, so cooking them until they’re well done will dry them out. Plus, women who regularly eat well-done meat are up to four times more likely to develop breast cancer, thanks to chemicals called heterocyclic amines which form when meat is exposed to heat for longer.
“My partner is really irritating me”
You need: a piece of wholegrain toast with strawberry jam.
Because: it’s a good mix of quick- and slow-release carbohydrates, which will instantly pep up your blood sugar levels and keep them there for a good couple of hours. What’s that got to do with your relationship? Low blood sugar levels can make you feel angrier with your husband or partner, so that you’re more likely to lash out at them, say US researchers. Plus, a study has shown that a serve of sweet or starchy carbohydrates raises levels of serotonin, the body’s feelgood chemical.
Tip: Have a cup of tea or cof ee with the toast and jam. The caffeine will boost your serotonin levels even more, which UK research shows will help you better control your temper.
“I’m so bloated, i look like i’ve gained a dress size”
You need: turmeric tea and pistachios.
Because: turmeric contains an antioxidant called curcumin, which stimulates digestion and has been proven to reduce symptoms of bloating. And because pistachios contain phytochemicals and non-digestible food components like fibre, they have prebiotic characteristics. That means they promote the growth of benefi cial bacteria in the body’s digestive tract to speed up digestion, which is one ‘fi x’ for a bloated stomach.
Tip: To boost the ef ectiveness of the tea’s curcumin, have a glass of pineapple juice afterwards. The fruit is rich in bromelain, an enzyme that increases curcumin absorption.
“It’s the weekend and I still feel stressed”
You need: dark chocolate.
Because: it immediately boosts mood just because of how it tastes, rather than its antioxidant content or phytochemical make-up, say UK researchers. But, if you eat it daily you will also reduce the level of stress hormones circulating in your bloodstream. All you need is 40g a day, with the biggest stress-relief benefits kicking in after two weeks, say German researchers.
Tip: To get the stressrelieving effect, choose a chocolate that contains 75 per cent cocoa.
“My pms is particularly bad this month”
You need: bananas and almonds for breakfast, and broccoli for dinner.
Because: all three are great sources of magnesium, a nutrient that reduces premenstrual-syndrome (PMS) symptoms, including bloating, headaches, breast pain and mood swings, say UK researchers. And the broccoli is also a good source of iron, which might help to prevent the same problem next month. In a study, women who ate diets rich in non-haem iron – the variety found in plant foods rather than meat – reduced their risk of PMS-related symptoms by 40 per cent.
Tip: Combine the broccoli with some red capsicum, or drink a glass of orange juice with the meal – the vitamin C will triple how much of the broccoli’s iron you absorb. And steer clear of chilli, which reduces iron absorption by 38 per cent.
“I PUSHED MYSELF TOO HARD AT THE GYM”
You need: blueberries.
Because: they’ll speed up how quickly your muscles recover. That’s according to a New Zealand study, which found that when people drank blueberry smoothies after exercising, their muscles bounced back better over the following 36 hours, compared to when they went blueberry free. The researchers say it’s likely due to the fact that the berries contain high levels of anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants.
Tip: The freezing process improves the availability of a blueberry’s antioxidants, so frozen berries will deliver a bigger health kick for your muscles than fresh.