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Digital Subscriptions > Healthy Food Guide > Dec-19 > STRESS-BUSTING FESTIVE FOODS



When festive stress reaches its peak (some time around 2pm on Christmas Day, perhaps?), the traditional figgy pudding may come into its own, as figs offer a number of calming nutrients. Dried figs are packed with fibre to help keep us feeling full, and they’re rich in potassium, good intakes of which are important for controlling blood pressure. Figs also provide sleep-inducing magnesium and fatigue-busting iron. They provide vitamin B6, too, which helps to convert tryptophan into serotonin (see Turkey on p20). Indeed, low levels have been linked to depression: one study found elderly women with the lowest intakes of vitamin B6 were 57% more likely to become depressed than those with the highest intakes. It’s an area that needs more research, but it certainly won’t do any harm to eat more B6-rich foods if you could do with a mood lift.


•l Two fresh or dried figs count as one of your 5-a-day.


• Chop dried figs and add to porridge or cereal.

• For a tasty starter, cut crosses into the top of whole fresh figs, add a little blue or goat’s cheese, then wrap in prosciutto or parma ham and bake until the cheese has melted and the ham has crisped up.


Salmon is full of nutrients linked to mental wellbeing. Like turkey (see p20), it contains plenty of protein and serotonin-boosting tryptophan. But it’s also rich in omega-3 fats, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is vital for normal brain function. Indeed, studies suggest omega-3 fats may help to reduce symptoms of anxiety. Salmon is also one of the few foods rich in vitamin D, low levels of which have been linked to depression, although more research is needed to identify whether a deficiency causes depression or being depressed lowers vitamin D. One theory is that vitamin D helps to increase serotonin. A 50g serving of smoked salmon provides 44% of the 10mcg vitamin D Public Health England recommends we should have each day.

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About Healthy Food Guide

Eat to beat seasonal stress with festive foods that help you stay calm. Plus, learn how some gifts have changed lives and how to decorate your home with herbs. Showstopping vegetarian side dishes, the best chocolate bars for special diets and, in our special section, expert advice to help ease IBS symptoms.