Foods to help you relax

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A woman eating a small piece of chocolate
When you're feeling stressed it's easy to reach for a biscuit or a bag of crisps to cheer yourself up. That's why they're called comfort foods, and most of the time you do it without even thinking.

Some of them, though, are scientifically proven to make you feel better and help you relax. There are even certain snacks that help your body unwind without necessarily piling on the pounds. These three food tips will have you de-stressing, relaxing and sleeping better in no time.

Eat foods high in tryptophan

This amino acid helps the brain produce serotonin - a chemical that calms you down, and melatonin - a hormone that can make you sleepy. This means it's not only great for relaxing, it's also a natural sleep aid and can help with depression and seasonal affective disorder.

- Milk
- Chicken
- Eggs
- Nuts
- Cheese - in particular Cheddar, Gruyere, and Swiss cheese
- Rice

Healthier options
- Turkey
- Beans
- Fish
- Cottage or ricotta cheese

Eat foods that are high in carbohydrates

Eating a high-carbohydrate meal, about two hours before bedtime, will immediately increase the levels of serotonin in your brain.

- Potatoes
- Cakes and desserts - Chocolate

Healthier options
- Pasta
- Cereals
- Figs
- Honey

Add a bit of fat to your meals

By adding fats to your meal, not only will you feel the immediate effect from the carbohydrates, the fat will cause a delayed reaction, so serotonin levels will be increased slowly a few hours later too. This will help you stay relaxed or stop you from waking up in the middle of the night. A lot of these also contain tryptophan. Eating these sorts of fats shouldn't be a regular thing though!

- Cream
- Butter
- Peanut butter
- Nuts
- Sausages
- Chocolate

N.B It is worth remembering that all these foods should be eaten in moderation and as part of a balanced diet.

Where next?
 - Ten ways to beat depression - What your food cravings really mean
- Try our Beat The Blues Diet or if your kids are stressed about exams have a look at our Exam Diet
- Find out more about what you're eating on our nutrition pages

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