Calming Foods List. Zen...

To kick off the first installment of my "Foods for your Mood" mini-series, today celebrates calming foods and recipes. Throughout the day I'll be posting recipes that 'calm'.

"Nothing is so bitter that a calm mind cannot find comfort in it." -Seneca (5 BC - 65 AD)

Why Calm? We all get frazzled, nervous, anxious, stressed out and tense once in a while. Some more often than others. Stress can wreck havoc on your body. It can make your digestive system feel like it's competing in the gymnastics competition at the Olympics. Stress can cause poor digestion, nausea, lacking appetite, overeating or insomnia. One natural way to 'get calm' is to include a few calming foods in your diet. Ahead, find out just what a "calming" food is, see my list and get a few cool calming quotes...

What is a "Calming" Food? Great question. 'Calming' foods are easy to digest, contain calming nutrients that actually relax your nervous system or boost your mood in some way and/or are easy/pleasurable/calming to eat (think creamy and soft rather than crunchy and rigid).

BRAT Diet. Haven't heard of the BRAT diet? A little nutrition 101 for you:
"The BRAT diet consists of foods that are relatively bland and low in fiber. Low-fiber foods were recommended as it was thought that foods high in fiber cause gas and possibly worsen gastrointestinal upset. BRAT is the mnemonic acronym for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast, the staples of the diet. Extensions to the BRAT diet include BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast, and Tea) and BRATTY (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast, Tea and Yogurt)." -Wikipedia

What to Avoid. Avoid foods that contain simple carbohydrates like sugar (go for complex carbohydrates), high fat content or caffeine. Keep in mind that even healthy foods like fruits and veggies that are very high in fiber (like a giant chopped salad) may not be good to eat when your digestive system is feeling ultra sensitive and tense.

Two Notable Calming Characteristics.

1) Calming complex carbohydrates. Carbs increase blood sugar, which may have a calming effect on the brain. "Calm people can have high blood sugar levels, and even sound-asleep folks can have high blood sugar. What induces that sense of calm from carbohydrates is their ability to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin, the one responsible for a relaxed, calm feeling. Eat complex carbs for longer lasting effects." -YourTotalHealth, In other words, choose complex carbs instead of simple sugar carbs so you won't get that "sugar high, then sugar crash and burn" effect.

2) Vitamin B6. "Vitamin B6 is needed to help manufacture serotonin. Eating foods high in B6 will ensure that you have the tools for calming foods to do their work."

So here is my list of Calming Foods
, including a very brief reason as to why I find them 'calming'. A few of these foods will be featured in recipes later today.

Calming Foods List

1. Bananas
Bananas are part of the BRAT diet. They also contain Vitamin B6. They are easy to digest and have actually been shown to interact with the lining of your stomach to produce digestive-enhancing mucous, helping to protect your stomach against acid. Bananas are also high in potassium, an important electrolyte for a hydrated, happy (and calm) body. Chewing the creamy texture is also a soothing experience.

2. Rice
Part of the BRAT diet. Rice is a calming complex carbohydrate that is relatively easy to digest. Rice is low in fat and high in complex carbs. Contains healthy mood nutrients like magnesium and B vitamins like B6.

3. Warm Tea
Part of the BRAT diet. Tea is a bland clear beverage that is easy on your stomach and low or free of caffeine. It is warming to the stomach and can sometimes influence a calming mood: examples of super calming teas are chamomile and 'Sleepytime Tea". Add some warm soy milk for added nutrients. Adding milk is also a good idea for those who find clear tea too bitter to drink plain. Plain tea can actually make some people queezy, so know your own body.

4. Toast
Part of the BRAT diet. Toast is a dried out, cooked form of bread. Bread is a calming complex carbohydrate. Complex carbs have been shown to enhance a 'happy feeling' aka serotonin in your brain. Toast is light and easy to digest. For optimum nutrients choose a sprouted grain or whole grain toast. However, know how much fiber your body is able to accept in times of stress.

5. Yogurt
Probiotics in yogurt can assist your digestive system in feeling its best. Good or 'healthy' bacteria or 'flora' will combat the 'bad' bacteria and in times of stress, you'll want to have as many healthy bacteria on your side as possible! Yogurt is also a creamy, soothing food to eat.

6. Applesauce
Part of the BRAT diet. Easy to digest, will provide for a quick boost of fructose sugar (fruit sugar) that can boost your mood. Applesauce contains fiber, but since it is basically an 'apple smoothie' (pre-mashed apples) it won't cause digestive struggles, as a whole fresh apple might.

7. Chamomile
Chamomile is an herb, flower that has been shown to have a calming effect of the nervous system. Chamomile tea is the most common form of intake. High quality brands will contain whole flowers in the tea bags.

8. Mashed Potatoes
Calming complex carbohydrate. Choose sweet potatoes for optimal taste, nutrients and mood-enhancing benefits. More calming complex carbs per bite. The mashed texture is both easy and calming to eat. Contains B6.

9. Papaya
Papaya contains papain, a fruit enzyme shown to enhance digestion. Papaya is also a sweet fruit that is incredibly easy to digest.

10. Dark Chocolate
Chocolate is calming. Need more explanation, OK: "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. This neurotransmitter is also released by runners after jogging for long periods of time and is thought to play a role in the “runner’s high”. Chocolate is also rich in tryptophan, the precursor to the serotonin which appears to play a role in relieving stress and promoting a sense of calmness." -Kristie Leong M.D.

11. Raw Cashews
I stuck raw cashews on the list because the are a 'crunchy' food that makes me feel calm. Plus, nuts are incredibly nutritious and cashews are the 'softest/creamiest' of the nuts in my opinion. The smooth white texture, the bland yet savory-sweet taste. The creaminess that forms as you chew. Nuts contain a lot of good-for-you nutrients like copper, magnesium and even tryptophan. 1/4 cup of raw cashews contains 22% your RDA of tryptophan." -WFoods Index. Bonus, cashew fruit juice from ONE beverages has also been said to cause a positive effect on nerves and digestion.

12. Spinach
Popeye always seemed incredibly calm even when he was rescuing Olive Oyl from the depths of danger. Oh and there is this too, "Spinach contains magnesium, a mineral with relaxing and calming effects. Green leafy vegetables are also high in folic acid, low levels of which have been linked to depression in several studies." -Documentary ABCNews, EgoD.

13. Vanilla Bean
Soothing, calming and relaxing. Vanilla has an intense smell that seeps into your bones and makes you feel good. A Real Estate agent friend of mine heats vanilla extract in the oven at her open houses because it makes the whole house smell like fresh baked cookies and calms the prospective buyers. And fyi, you can't beat using a whole vanilla bean in place of vanilla extract...

14. Ginger and Peppermint
Ginger is known to calm nausea and aide in digestion. Peppermint can also relax the digestive system. Both are warming and stimulating and thus should be used with care in times of stress.

15. Coconut Water
How could I leave out coconut water. Pure fresh young coconut water is natures 'sports beverage'. It provides for optimal hydration and cools you off from your core. Calm, cool and hydrated sounds like a calm state of body to me.

Stay tuned for Calming Recipes later today!

A few fun "Calm" Quotes:

"Great events make me quiet and calm; it is only trifles that irritate my nerves." -Queen Victoria, in a letter to King Leopold of Belgium, April 4, 1848

"Nothing is so bitter that a calm mind cannot find comfort in it." -Seneca (5 BC - 65 AD)

"Always behave like a duck - keep calm and unruffled on the surface but paddle like the devil underneath." -Jacob Braude

"If you can attain repose and calm, believe that you have seized happiness." -Julie-Jeanne-Eleonore de Lespinasse, O Magazine, October 2002

"There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm."
-Willa Cather (1873 - 1947), The Song of the Lark, 1915

"How sweet and soothing is this hour of calm! I thank thee, night! for thou has chased away these horrid bodements which, amidst the throng, I could not dissipate; and with the blessing of thy benign and quiet influence now will I to my couch, although to rest is almost wronging such a night as this." -Lord Byron (1788 - 1824)

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