By Nutritionist, Samantha Gemmell
Magnesium – is there anything it can't do? This friendly little mineral has multiple positive effects on a stressed person.
It acts as a muscle relaxant, soothing tension away. It is a pre-cursor to mood-balancing neurotransmitters in the brain. The brain also benefits from the boost of blood flow, helping you to think clearly. Finally, it also plays roles in blood sugar regulation and energy production, keeping your energy levels steady.
When it comes to magnesium, cacao is one of your few super-foods. Even just 100g of cacao will give you more than your daily requirement for magnesium.
When we get stressed, often we end up breathing shallowly. That's not great for most people, but if you're iron deficient, it can be crippling. People who are iron deficient often already feel breathless as a common symptom. Combine it with stress, and you could trigger yourself into a panic attack.
Cacao is full of iron that can help you to rebuild your stores of iron. Iron also carries oxygen to your tissues, keeping you feeling more alert and capable.
If you rely on caffeine sources such as coffee during stressful times, you might be making things worse. Caffeine is a potent stimulator of the nervous system, and can leave you jittery.
Theobromine on the other hand gives only gentle stimulation. It is also a muscle relaxant and vasodilator, meaning it can lower your blood pressure. It can also help boost blood flow to the brain, helping you to focus when you're under pressure.
You might not know of anadamide, but if you love your chocolate, you'll know the feeling it gives. It's also known as the bliss chemical – the reason you feel so good when you consume chocolate.
In fact, anadamide might even be used as a therapy for depression and anxiety in the near future. It feels THAT good. Who wouldn't want a hit of bliss when they're under the pump?
For bonus points, why not have your cacao in tea form? Not only is it super delicious without the extra sugar, but it's soothing too. How can it boost your stress relief efforts?
Warm drinks are calming for the nervous system. If you're enjoying cacao, it's even more so. You can even add in some warm milk – the tryptophan in milk helps support calming neurotransmitter production.
When we're stressed, we tend to run around without stopping. Relieving stress is the last thing on our minds. But if you take the time to brew yourself a cacao tea, you are taking time out to stop end enjoy the process in the moment.
Try to focus on one task at a time as you prepare it. Boil the kettle. Put the cacao in a tea strainer. Pour the water. Savour the aroma as it infuses. Add the milk, if making it a hot chocolate. Stir the drink. Sip it slowly. When you are mindful, tea time becomes a kind of stress-relieving meditation.
So the next time you have a stressful day ahead of you, get ahead of the rush. Enjoy your cacao, and feel the calm wash over you.
What's your favourite natural stress reliever?
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