Promote Calmness Through Food

It’s a good day to promote calmness through food. For lots of people in my state, it’s a hard day to be calm. Our basketball team plays in the Elite Eight tonight. They’ve been a bit of a heart attack team in the tournament so far, making it impossible to calmly lounge on the couch and watch. Could the snacks we choose for the game help quell our anxiety?

I’m not going to pretend that only a handful of almonds tonight will slow our heartbeats when we’re trailing by 10. That’s not how wellness through food generally works. But skipping the sugary, carb-filled food and beverages can help diminish the jittery feeling caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels.

That doesn’t mean you have to go snack free to reduce anxiety. A handful of crunchy raw almonds or sunflower seeds will provide magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been shown to increase anxiety-related behaviors.

Spinach is also a source of magnesium as are Swiss chard, legumes, other seeds and nuts, and whole grains. You may not want to eat a spinach salad during the game, but spinach dip could hit the spot. You could even serve it with bean-based tortilla chips.

Some experts recommend foods rich in B vitamins to reduce anxiety. That makes guacamole another great gameday snack food. Or serve layer dip with beans, sour cream, guacamole, salsa, cheese, green onions, and tomatoes.

Pickles are probiotics that have been linked to lower social anxiety. A plate of crunchy dill pickles will be a welcome addition to your coffee table fare.  Another option is pickled asparagus. You’ll get probiotic benefits coupled with the anti-anxiety properties of asparagus.

And while you’re gathering snacks, don’t forget one of our family favorites – deviled eggs. Foods rich in zinc, like eggs, have also been linked to lower levels of anxiety.

Gluten-free diet followers will be pleased to learn that low anxiety dessert is in the offing. Buckwheat and quinoa are high in magnesium as well as B vitamins. And dark chocolate provides both magnesium and antioxidants. More antioxidants can mean less anxiety. A buckwheat chocolate cookie sweetened with dates, honey, or coconut crystals is the perfect dessert combination for game day.

If you don’t have time to bake, a bowl of fresh berries topped with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg is a refreshing addition to an antioxidant-filled menu.

And when it’s not game day, all of these foods will still help reduce anxiety. Many are effective for lessening depression as well.

A balanced diet filled with fresh food and plenty of water will give your body the support it needs to function properly. This can go a long way toward building physical and mental and emotional resiliency. I need to get started snacking now so that I’ll have the stamina to watch the game…calmly.

Gluten-Free Basics. A Review.

The term gluten-free has appeared in the news so often over the past year that it’s easy to assume everyone knows exactly what it means. Of course, that’s a silly assumption. I remember that I read the term bitcoin in the news 3 times last week, but I don’t know anything about the newfangled currency. So rather than make assumptions, let’s do a quick review of the gluten-free basics.

Gluten-free simply means contains no gluten. If you choose to eat only foods that contain no gluten, then you are living a gluten-free lifestyle. As of August 2014, foods labeled gluten-free* will not contain more than 20ppm gluten. That means they will be free of any derivatives of wheat, rye, barley, malt, or triticale. Sounds simple enough, right?

So what is gluten anyway? Gluten is a protein that’s sticky. It gives dough the elasticity that lets it hold together while it rises and takes on a chewy texture. This protein also causes an autoimmune response in those who are sensitive or intolerant ultimately leading to a host of serious health problems. Luckily, these health problems can quickly diminish when you embrace a gluten-free lifestyle.

If you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, gluten sensitivity, or gluten intolerance, you will only reach optimum health if you eliminate ALL gluten from your lifestyle FOREVER. Once you begin a diet devoid of gluten, you may feel better immediately or it may take up to a year before you can tell a real difference. During that first year, you may feel better for a while and then slightly worse, and then better again. This is often a normal part of the healing process.

When preparing to change to a gluten-free lifestyle, it can be helpful to focus on the foods you CAN eat. When prepared at home, you can eat all meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices. This includes potatoes and corn. You can also eat some grains including rice, sorghum, quinoa, buckwheat, and oats that have been certified to be free from cross-contamination.

If you lived in your grandmother’s day, the switch to this lifestyle would be so minor you would hardly notice. Yes, you’d have to thicken gravy with cornstarch, leave the flour out of the cornbread, and lay off the rolls, but most of your diet would be the same as the rest of the family.

The reason gluten-free sounds like such a big change now is our increase in dependence on cheap, prepackaged, convenience and fast foods. Packaged foods are designed to be resilient to being transported long distances. They are also formulated to maintain consistent texture, appearance, and taste after sitting on store shelves for months or years. Sticky, gluey substances like gluten and gums help achieve consistent texture.

Eliminating the majority of prepackaged food from your diet will give you a head start in improving your health, but you can now find plenty of gluten-free substitutes on the shelves of local grocery stores when you need to grab something in a hurry. You don’t even have to choose items that are labeled gluten-free. Once you learn how to read labels, you’ll discover many more choices in the regular store aisles.

Want to get started today? It’s as easy as leaving behind wheat, rye, barley, malt, and triticale. Don’t eat traditional bread, rolls, biscuits, pasta, pizza crust, cake, piecrust, breaded meat or vegetables. Avoid sauces, soups, and salad dressings thickened with flour or food starch other than corn. Eliminate malted vinegars (unmalted are fine), malted milk balls, and malts. Switch to gluten-free beer. Distilled grain alcohol is usually gluten-free. Ask for a gluten-free menu at your favorite chain restaurant. You’ll be surprised how many have one readily available. Use the internet to find fast-food nutrition information.

You don’t have to learn any more than you want to learn, cook any more than you want to cook, or stop enjoying favorite family recipes. Anyone who tells you this will be a difficult change for you to make doesn’t realize how incredible you are. Shame on them for selling you short. I believe you can do what it takes to feel your best! It’s easy to get started today.

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