Here are 9 plant-based foods to boost your sense of calm during the COVID-19 pandemic. A conversation I had with a friend last week inspired me to write this post. She was telling me that the stress of COVID-19 was really making her feel agitated and she could not sleep. So the advice I am giving here is exactly what I told her on our WhatsApp phone call.
Food and mood regulation
As a trained psychotherapist, I am interested in how food can help us regulate our emotions all the time, and especially during periods of higher stress. The Covid-19 pandemic is a global historical moment, the likes of which most of us have never experienced before. I want to share 9 plant-based foods to boost your sense of calm right now.
Food can support or hinder your mood
Food is never going to solve all your problems, no matter how you eat. However, how we eat massively affects our mood and energy levels throughout the day. Food can cause our moods to swing or it can help us create mood stability. The best way to think about food is that what you eat pushes your mood in a direction and creates a feeling experience or tone in the body. Just as enough sleep and movement create a certain mental and emotional stability or anguish, food does the same for our mental and emotional state.
One easy image I always use to make this clear is a 3 year old 20 minutes after eating a chocolate brownie. As adults, we all know how we feel after one too many coffees. Draw attention to what you eat and how your mood fluctuates throughout the day – you will be surprised by how closely connected they are. I want food to support my mental health rather than be a detriment to me.
Eating for comfort is comforting
Comfort eating is a natural, human reaction to overwhelming circumstances. Like me, during the COVID-19 pandemic you might be snacking more and craving sweet foods. Maybe you are simply taking more time and interest in planning and cooking delicious meals. Kids may be asking for more snacks, and adults may be reaching for familiar foods they enjoyed as a child.
It’s important to work with our needs, rather than denying them. We are looking for pleasure during a worrying time when our usual routines and habits are disrupted. We wouldn’t be being compassionate to ourselves or realistic if we simply ignored our urges to eat. Food choices can comfort us and help boost our sense of calm right now.
Magnesium, the natural calming supplement
When my daughter was very young, I got tuned into the connection between magnesium and calm. I met with a doctor to discuss my feeling that I just could not calm down. Specifically, I was having a hard time sleeping and I could not feel calm during the day. It felt like my nervous system was all jacked up and nothing was working to bring it back down. This doctor explained that my nervous system was running on high. To help me switch it down and feel calmer, the doctor recommended taking a magnesium supplement. Taking this supplement gives me a steadier, calmer mood throughout the day and it also improved my sleep at night.
Magnesium really helped me to calm down and to this day, I still take a magnesium supplement when I start to notice that I am more agitated than normal. We all go through moments of heightened anxiety and stress and this pandemic is one of them. Now, whenever I go through a stressful period I always increase my Magnesium intake in two ways: taking a supplement and eating magnesium rich foods.
9 Plant-based Foods To Boost Your Sense of Calm
Taking a magnesium supplement and eating magnesium rich foods is increasing my sense of calm during the COVID-19 pandemic. The best sources of nutrients are always natural foods. Some of the best plant-based sources of magnesium are:
- Skin on potatoes
- Legumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas and soybeans.
- Dark leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds: almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds
- Whole grains: wheat, oats, barley
You probably notice that these are all simple, easy to find ingredients. You do not need to eat special, obscure or expensive foods to be properly nourished.
9 plant-based, magnesium-rich recipes:
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you – I really am suggesting a chocolate milkshake as a healthy, comforting snack. Bananas are the magnesium-rich powerhouse here, providing sweetness and smooth, thick texture. Combine your favourite plant based milk and a spoon of cocoa powder, and 1-2 frozen or ripe bananas and you will have a delicious, filling drink which satisfies chocolate cravings. If you want to make it a protein chocolate shake, use this best vegan protein powder on the market.
This takes just a couple of minutes to make and is full of magnesium and fibre. Serve with a large plate of chopped raw vegetables as the perfect crunchy, healthy alternative to chips.
Oil free and baked, these potato fries are good for our bodies. Remember to keep the skin on, as that is where the large dose of magnesium is.
These date balls taste like a raw Snickers bar, but you won’t get gross fuzzy teeth or a sugar crash after eating them. You can make them with raw or slightly toasted almonds or peanuts. They taste great when you keep them in the freezer.
This is a Mediterranean inspired, Yemeni spiced soup, packed with satiating squash, lentils and potato. This soup is simple to make. The full texture of the lentils and vegetables makes this a filling and comforting dish for lunch or dinner.
This salad hits big magnesium points: leafy greens, avocados and nuts are all great sources of magnesium. Kale is also a fantastic source of iron, and the lemon in the dressing aids iron absorption.
These sweet snacks are made from surprising ingredients: beans (or sweet potato), almond flour and vegan dark choc chips. Almonds are one of the best nut-based sources of magnesium.
Cashew nuts are another fantastic source of calming magnesium. I have made this recipe countless times, I skip the oil and parmesan and don’t miss it. The cashews are soft, so they blend everything together without oil. Spread on toast or stir through hot pasta for a filling and comforting meal.
Shop-bought granola is usually full of sugar, and often from highly processed fructose syrup. The oats in the recipe are what provide the nerve-soothing magnesium. Try it for a sweet breakfast or snack.
By incorporating these 9 Plant-based foods to boost our sense of calm, we are giving ourselves the eating pleasure we crave and soothing ourselves with boosted magnesium intake at the same time.
What are your go-to soothing recipes? Let me know in the comments!