Chill Out with Calming Foods

Email is down. Deadlines are passing. Errands piling up. Book group coming. I am s-t-r-e-s-s-e-d! The go-to solution? Haagen Dazs dulce de leche or maybe a bag of Twizzlers or a handful my daughter’s cookies pulled out of the freezer and shoved into the microwave for a quickie defrost. Bad choices all. I would never pledge to purge them from my diet, but they really are really not a great prescription for stress busting. The sugar rush is great, but when your blood sugar rate drops, stress hormones are released.

While there’s been a centuries-old debate and many books along the way about whether certain foods act as aphrodisiacs, there seems to be consensus that certain types of food can help you chill out. Research show that vitamins like B complex, C and E along with minerals like manganese, selenium and zinc are helpful in relieving stress, but the letters and mineral names never register on me in the absence of real food names. Here are some to try. No, they will not turn your stress into euphoria, but they can turn the meter down.

Guacamole. Was I happy to find this one on the list. My son-in-law whips up giant bowlfuls that I’ve heard declared “the best” by many a taster. Avocados, with their healthy dose of B vitamins, which stress robs from your body. Get them back atop whole-grain chips.

Nuts. Mix ‘em up, eat an ounce or two in total – Brazil nuts to replace stress-depleted zinc, walnuts to replace B vitamins, and almonds to boost vitamin E, which helps fight cellular damage linked to chronic stress.

Orange juice. Oranges and orange show up on lists of tips for dealing with pre-speech stress and anxiety because vitamin C has been shown to calm people down quickly by lowering cortisol (a stress hormone) levels as well as blood pressure.

Berries. Not as desirable as M&Ms, perhaps, but when stress drives you to Reese’s Pieces or other I-can’t-believe-how-many-I-ate snacks, eating berries one by one fulfills the sugar crave without the inevitable blood-sugar crash. They are another good “C” source.

Decaf Chai tea. Tea=a calmer you. Sip slowly. Not everyone would say stay clear of caffeine. Family practitioner Dr. Kristie Leong says that green tea contains an amino acid known as L-theanine which has a calming effect on the brain by altering levels of the neurotransmitters, dopamine, GABA, and serotonin. Although some people who are extremely sensitive to caffeine may not get this response, most people report feel more relaxed when they drink a cup of green tea.

Dark chocolate. Are you “milk” or “darks? The “darks are the winners here because they can reduce stress by eating what is a top-of-the-list favorite for many. All chocolate contains a neurotransmitter known as anandamide that has the ability to alter dopamine levels in the brain, causing a sense of peace and relaxation, but dark chocolate contains a lot more.

Asparagus. A great source of folic acid, which is a natural mood lightener.

Todd’s Amazing Guacamole

4-5 ripe avocados
3-5 Roma tomatoes
3-5 cloves garlic
1 medium red onion
1 cup cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper
1-2 limes

· Finely dice onion (reserve some on the side)
· Press garlic (reserve some on the side)
· Chop cilantro (reserve some on the side)
· Seed and finely dice roughly ¼ to ½ of the jalapeño pepper (wear gloves).
· Seed and dice Tomatoes (reserve some on the side)
· Mix onion, garlic, cilantro, tomato, jalapeño and add the juice of ½ of a lime
· Season the mixture generously with salt and pepper (add a dash of cumin)
· Halve and remove all avocados from skin
· In a separate bowl, dice all avocados (leave chunky), cover with juice from the remaining ½ lime, and season with salt and pepper. Mix gently.
· Combine the onion/garlic/tomato mix with the avocados and mix gently
· Taste and add reserved ingredients to taste

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