One thing I don’t do is diet. I don’t D.I.E.T (which stands for ‘did I eat that?’), I just choose food well and will, on occasion, eat a whole box of pizza by myself.
It is one thing to tap into a food’s inherently calming properties and totally different story using any food as a kind of emotional anesthesia. For starters, what makes a particular type of food calming (take pizza for instance)? Do you feel better whenever you eat it?
Try having a cup of chamomile tea every night: Turn off the TV, the computer, and your phone, and settle down for a peaceful end to the day, reading Phenomenal Magazine articles and watching my videos online 🙂
I, for now, live for chocolate and yes, chocolate addition is a thing. However, I WON’T settle for anything that isn’t dark chocolate – the plain the better, although I do with orange and almond flavor pretty too well :-), should you ever want to spoil me :-). I go crazy whenever I want to eat chocolate but don’t have any; usually when I’m under pressure. Simply put; chocolate calms me.
So I recently did my research to find that, although that kind of eating may buy you a temporary sense of calm, it’s a quick fix that wears off way too fast. Sometimes I go for dark, moist chocolate cake, convincing myself that it is just dessert or snack – what with eating it at the wrong times and all (like at 1 o’clock in the morning). And where would that usually leave one? Weighing more than you’d like and muttering at yourself, “Yuck, how could I have eaten all that?” after downing more than necessary.
As I’ve already mentioned, stressful events—and they don’t even have to be big, just the daily hassles of life—cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol causes food cravings, and in women, those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially sweet foods, according to researchers at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center.
Fortunately for me, dark chocolate is good for me, dark chocolate cake isn’t. Unfortunately, the more of them we eat, the worse our moods get. As if that weren’t bad enough, the cortisol then makes more trouble for us, triggering an enzyme in our fat cells (it converts cortisone to more cortisol). Since our visceral fat cells (the ones in our abdomen, packed around our vital organs) have more of these enzymes than the subcutaneous fat cells (the fat on our thighs and butts, for example), stress causes many women to accumulate more belly fat. The more stress, the more this abdominal, or central, obesity occurs.
I don’t D.I.E.T (which stands for ‘did I eat that?’), I just choose food well and will, on occasion, eat a whole box of pizza by myself 🙂
Turns out these belly fat cells, which have been linked to a greater risk for heart disease and diabetes, have four times as many cortisol receptors as regular fat cells.
So when I talk about calming foods, I don’t mean so-called ‘comfort foods’, like my AM dark chocolate gallops. I mean meals and snacks that will truly soothe and calm you. Whether it’s because of the specific nutrients they provide or the steady, reliable source of energy they give you, they’ll get you through the day feeling focused, even, and balanced—so you’ll have the ability to conquer anything.
I know, these slender stalks are known to make your urine smell funny. But they are high in folate, which is essential for ‘keeping your cool’. I like them steamed, then added to salads. Never eaten them on their own before. I also love them broiled until crisp. Go ahead and eat as many as you’d like. (Enjoy them in new ways with these delicious asparagus recipes. I’ve tried some :-))
- AvocadosThese creamy fruits will stress-proof your body. Rich in glutathione, a substance that specifically blocks intestinal absorption of certain fats that cause oxidative damage, avocados also contain lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E (my favorite in everything), and more folate than any other fruit. A single serving (about one-quarter of an avocado) has plenty of B vitamins, too. Remember, this may technically be a fruit, but I count it as a fat, so use portion control. Thin slices on sandwiches add a whole new layer of flavor.
Blueberries have some of the highest levels of an antioxidant known as anthocyanin, and they’ve been linked to all kinds of positive health outcomes, including sharper cognition. But all berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are rich in vitamin C, which has been shown to be helpful in combating stress. German researchers tested this by asking 120 people to give a speech, then do hard math problems. Those who had been given vitamin C had lower blood pressure and lower levels of cortisol after the stress-test. Substitute berries for any other fruits on the plan whenever you want. I like to nibble on them frozen, too.
I love all nuts. They’re great snacks, and because they are crunchy and a little salty, they cure many cravings. For those trying to lose weight, they’re such a potently satisfying combo of protein and fat that it’s hard for me not to recommend them at every single meal. (You do have to watch portion size though, since they are high in calories.) Cashews are an especially good source of zinc—a 1-ounce serving has 11 percent of your RDA. Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc, it’s important to get some every day. Trade cashews for other nuts on the plan when you’re in the mood. Coarsely chop a handful and toss them into a chicken stir-fry. Makes for the best meal ever! Better yet, make peanut-butter-chicken at least once a week.
- Chamomile tea
I used to drink a lot of chamomile tea while pregnant with my last LO and while breastfeeding. It would not only calm my baby and reduce colic, but it would do wonders for my lactation and post-pregnancy stress. This is probably one of the most recommended bedtime soothers in the world. A study from the University of Pennsylvania tested chamomile supplements on 57 participants with generalized anxiety disorder for 8 weeks, and found it led to a significant drop in anxiety symptoms. Of course, I’d much prefer you drink it in tea form—that way, you’ll get the warm, wonderfully calming feeling of holding a mug of tea as you sit in a quiet spot before bed. And yes, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, there is some evidence that, in addition to calming nerves, chamomile promotes sleep.
Tip: Just pour a cup of boiling water over 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of the dried flowers (you can buy chamomile either loose or in tea bags at health food stores) and steep for 10 minutes. Try having a cup every night: Turn off the TV, the computer, and your phone, and settle down for a peaceful end to the day, reading Phenomenal Magazine articles and watching my videos online :-). It’s nice iced, too.
Besides the healthy antioxidants in this treat, which push chocolate to the top of most heart-healthy food lists, it has an undeniable link to mood. A recent study from the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine reports that both women and men eat more chocolate as depressive symptoms increase. Of course, we’ve all been there, polishing off an entire package of chocolate after a bad day. But there’s evidence that, in moderation, chocolate does actually make you feel better.
Dark chocolate, in particular, is known to lower blood pressure, adding to a feeling of calm. It contains more polyphenols and flavonols—two important types of antioxidants—than some fruit juices. You can safely allow yourself dark chocolate as a snack once a week, or as a conscious indulgence, and still stay on track with your weight loss results. I always keep a few squares in my bag – like, all the time, though. There’s nothing like a ‘sugar rush’ with dark chocolate. See why I live for it?
Like many plants, garlic is jam-packed with powerful antioxidants and I use it to cook literally EVERY single savory meal. These chemicals neutralize free radicals (particles that damage our cells, cause diseases, and encourage aging) and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage the free radicals cause over time. Among the compounds in garlic is allicin, which has been linked to fending off heart disease, cancer, and even the common cold. Because stress weakens our immune system, we need friends like garlic, which can toughen it back up. As long as you saute it in broth, not oil, you can add it liberally to all the meals on the plan. Come on, I know you want to join me in this! :-).
- Grass-fed beef
I definitely didn’t know about this because, first, I’m not too crazy about beef and second, whenever I eat it, I indulge in chunky barbecued, super marinated steak pieces. Don’t you judge me – I live in Namibia, for Pete’s sake! Nonetheless, it turns out grass-fed beef is not only better for the planet, it’s also better for humans. It has more antioxidants—including vitamins C and E and beta-carotene—than grain-fed beef, and doesn’t have added hormones, antibiotics, or other drugs. And while it’s lower in fat, overall, it’s about two to four times higher in omega-3s. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that healthy volunteers who ate grass-fed meat increased their blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids and decreased their levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. These changes have been linked with a lower risk of a host of disorders, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, depression, and inflammatory disease. Grass-fed beef is pricey, alright, but well worth the occasional splurge.
- Green Tea
Whenever I wake up in the middle of the night to work, I make myself a kettle o green tea which keeps awake and focused, and let’s be honest, it tastes better than coffee! While it does contain caffeine, green tea also has an amino acid called theanine. Researchers at the University of Illinois say that in addition to protecting against some types of cancer, this slimming food is a brain booster as well, enhancing mental performance. Drink two cups each day. It doesn’t get better than that!
Talk about comfort food! However, I struggle with a freshly cooked ordinary bowl of oatmeal, unless I consume it as cookies, in pancakes, or in a jungle bar, topped with dark chocolate, or take it with lots of peanut butter, lemon juice, honey, yogurt and cinnamon. Could be because I ate enough to last me a lifetime while breastfeeding, to help me generate more breast-milk. A complex carbohydrate, oatmeal causes your brain to produce serotonin, a feel-good chemical. Not only does serotonin have antioxidant properties, it also creates a soothing feeling that helps overcome stress. Studies have shown that kids who eat oatmeal for breakfast stay sharper throughout the morning. And beta-glucan, the type of soluble fiber found in oatmeal, has been shown to promote greater satiety scores than other whole grains. Make a batch of the steel-cut variety on the weekend, store it in the fridge, and microwave it on busy mornings. It keeps beautifully, and in fact, that’s how restaurants often prepare it.
Another vitamin C powerhouse, oranges, have the added benefit of being totally portable. That tough skin keeps them protected while they’re bouncing around in your purse or backpack, meaning you can tote them anywhere. Experiment with all the varieties—clementines, tangelos, mineolas.
And you thought oysters were only good as aphrodisiacs! I’m personally not crazy about seafood, unless it is boneless hake, but they belong here, too, because they’re the Godzilla of zinc: Six oysters, which is what you’d typically be served in a restaurant as an appetizer, have more than half the RDA for this important mineral. I think they’re best served on ice with nothing but a lemon wedge.
The sweet flavor of walnuts is so pleasant, and it’s nice to know they’ve been proven to provide a bit of a cognitive edge. They contain alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid, and other polyphenols that have been shown to help prevent memory loss. Researchers at Tufts University found that animals that ingested walnuts even reversed some signs of brain aging. To bring out their flavor, I toast them for 10 minutes, then chop them and add them to salads, along with my second addiction – almonds.
This list is adapted from Slim Calm Sexy Diet.
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