It’s time for us to re-think our comfort foods – and by definition Comfort food is ‘those foods that we choose to eat at times of chaos or happiness or sadness or stress’. There’s a huge difference between tapping into a food’s inherently calming properties and using any food as a kind of emotional release. That kind of eating may buy us a temporary sense of calm, but it’s a quick fix that wears off way too fast. I think we’ve all been guilty of it…..But where does it usually leave us? I reckon – Overfeed and undernourished!
Stressful events—and they don’t even have to be big, just the daily hassles of life, that time of the month—cause our cortisol levels to rise. Cortisol, a hormone is made in the adrenal glands and it contributes to our food cravings, and in women those cravings tend to be strongest for carbs, especially simple carbs found in highly processed foods or sweet foods. The more we eat, the worse our mood actually gets! damn it!!
So when I talk about calming foods, I don’t mean so-called comfort foods. I mean meals and snacks that will truly soothe and calm you. Whether it’s because of the specific nutrients they provide us with or the steady, reliable source of energy they give us, they’ll get us through the day feeling focused, even, and balanced—so we have the ability to conquer anything.
There are many ‘calming’ foods and I guess it’s not surprise that it’s all whole foods that are on the list below…….
By now you may have figured out my passion is snack foods and so the ‘calming foods’ that i’m going to write bout are based around using them in snack recipes or as a simple snack themselves.
Avocados are rich in stress-relieving B vitamins which are important for healthy nerves and brain cells. Bonus! They’re also high in monounsaturated fat and potassium, which help lower blood pressure. Technically they are a fruit however I always see them as a fat so it’s important to remember that for portion size. Avocado is a great alternative to butter in cookie recipes or an addition to your smoothie to make it thick and creamy like the thickshake you just might be craving! My favourite is to make a smoothie with avocado in it, make sure it’s thick and then pour it into pop molds and freeze. Smooth creamy calmness in no time.
Blueberries may seem small, but just a handful pack a powerful punch of antioxidants and vitamin C, making them mighty stress-busters. When we’re stressed, our bodies need vitamin C and antioxidants to help repair and protect cells. While blueberries are tasty all by themselves (tip: freeze them for a cold berry snack), there’s no better way to boost the nutrition in a serving of yogurt or porridge or cake or cookie.
Almonds – Get some stress-relief munching on almonds, which are rich in vitamins B2 and E. Both of these nutrients assist the immune system during times of stress. Just a quarter cup of almonds each day does the trick. These awesome power house nuts are the easiest to incorporate into a healthy calming snack – by themselves of course but what about spreading some almond butter on apple slices or whole wheat crackers.
Oranges – There’s a reason orange juice is said to be part of the breakfast of champions: Vitamin C is another vitamin known to lower blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. For a quick burst of vitamin C, simply peel & eat a whole orange. Whole oranges ensure that the fibre helps to slow down the natural sweetener within the fruit. Throw whole oranges into a cake to really grab all the whole goodness for a natural calm
Spinach – Make like Popeye and fill up on spinach. Leafy greens may not be your idea of comfort food, but spinach can have a comforting effect. Spinach is packed with magnesium, the mineral that helps regulate cortisol levels and promote feelings of wellbeing. Baby spinach has so much goodness and the ideal green to add to sweets because it doesn’t have an overpowering flavor. Easily add it to green muffins, breakfast muffins or your smoothies.
Oats or Oatmeal is another food that helps get the calm-inducing hormone serotonin flowing. Use lots of whole oats where possible, full of fibre they take longer to digest meaning the calming effect actually lasts longer. Oat flour is a great alternative to almond meal in some cookie recipes, throw oats into your smoothies to aid in slowing down the fructose or if making pops, oats add a creaminess that my kids love.
Cashews seriously I love all nuts but these ones…hmmm They’re great snacks, and because they are crunchy and naturally sweeter, they cure many cravings. For those trying to lose weight, they’re such a potently satisfying combo of protein and fat. (You do have to watch portion size though, since they are high in calories.) Cashews are an especially good source of zinc – 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. Cashews with their natural sweetness plus a few Ommmms will see you calm throughout your day.
Basil is a natural immune-boosting herb, high in nutrients that improve overall cognitive function and can help reduce high amounts of stress add to savoury muffins or crackers. Top your storebought crackers.
Nutmeg is a relaxant spice, used in folk medicine to relieve anxiety and depression. A little o this spice goes a long way, so don’t overdo it, a pinch here and there is all you need.
Now you will notice that I haven’t included Chocolate on the list today even though so many people recommend having a small amount a day. Cacao contains a natural stimulant called Theobromine(not caffeine but a stimulant anyway) and although many advocate it because of its antioxidant properties I stay well away if I’ve looking for calm. Now I didn’t say don’t have any, hell no, quite the opposite, it’s important to eat foods with antioxidants but just not when you’re looking for a sense of calm.
Try the Apple and Almond Butter Sandwich(above) – ready to go in under 2 mins!
Whip up the Almond and Blueberry cookies(first image) these take literally 12 mins to make and have you feeling a sense of calm before you know it!
Thanks for visiting Simple Nourishment blog – I’m looking forward to next time too! xx