Four Tips to Curb Caffeine

My son’s camp is finishing up and so Mommycamp has begun. That means cramming six weeks of fun-filled activities together for my son with usual work demands. But it is exciting, exhilarating, and exhausting! So I picked now to try to cut down on caffeine ☹. I know, I know, sad day for me. Anywho, I’m a green tea drinker so I always figured that I was okay in the caffeine department. I was averaging around three to four cups a day at one point. After all, green tea is high in antioxidants and lower in caffeine compared to black teas and various coffees, right? But the caffeine content with some teas may vary based on the type of tea and the brewing time.

What the heck is caffeine anyway? Caffeine is an alkaloid found in plants that acts on the central nervous system. It is an ingredient in many foods, beverages, and proprietary drugs (the FDA’s National Center for Drugs and Biologics lists more than 1,000 over-the-counter drugs with caffeine as an ingredient—yikes!). Small amounts of this stimulant may alter metabolic rate, respiratory rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. Other effects may include frequent urination (diuretic) and increased blood sugar levels.

Some research indicates that caffeine comes with a mixed bag of results. Moderate amounts of caffeine can decrease fatigue (yeah!), enhance cognitive and physical performance, quicken reaction accuracy, and increase focus.  Too much caffeine may alter your hormone levels and deplete essential nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. In fact, caffeine intake has been associated with risk of endometriosis, osteoporosis, and anxiety and gastrointestinal disorders. Some other problems that can occur with overconsumption of caffeine include insomnia, headaches, nervousness and nausea. For example, some evidence suggests that consumption of five or more cups of coffee a day is linked with a low risk of Type II diabetes but lower consumption levels are inconclusive. Okay, before we all burn our stashes of coffee and tea, remember the risk comes with caffeine overconsumption. So keep it moderate folks.

In my quest to control my caffeine, there are some foods that I rely on:

Parsley

I confess that I used to be one of those people that would toss the parsley right off my meal at restaurants like what the heck do I need that for?! #don’tknownobetter. In my defense, most restaurants tend to use curly leaf parsley that has no flavor. Flat leaf parsley—yep, much better. But parsley can be just as tasty and healthy as the main meal. This diuretic herb is an antioxidant because it contains the flavonoid apigenin, which also has anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and antimutagenic properties. In addition, parsley has vitamins C and E, beta carotene, thiamine, folate, iron, and calcium. Calcium levels decrease with high caffeine consumption. Please note: be very careful with high-calcium foods because some of them may contain oxalates. I talk about that here. I do love some flat leaf parsley when I can get it but when I can’t, dried parsley will do just fine on my soups and salads.

Almond Butter

Like many of you, I grew up with peanut butter in my house. When my parents weren’t home and we didn’t want to heat anything up, it was peanut butter to the rescue. I didn’t try almond butter until I was an adult. And, admittedly, at first I friggin’ hated it. It took tweaking the right combination (almond butter and a dash of agave nectar FTW) to really bring out the flavor of this nut butter. Almonds are loaded with vitamin E, phosphorus, potassium, and dietary fiber. This nut is also rich in magnesium and calcium, both of which are reduced by high caffeine intake. Almond butter has more fiber, calcium, and potassium than other nut butters like peanut butter. What’s more, it has been reported that high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the good cholesterol that decreases risk for heart disease) increased with almond butter intake. I like almond butter occasionally on toast or as a snack with whatever fresh veggies or fruit are available in the house.

Black-eyed peas

I used to think black-eyed peas were just something you ate to celebrate the new year. Before I became a vegetarian and then a vegan, I thought black-eyed peas were just “awkward” as my son says about foods he abhors. But then I discovered Texas caviar—DIVINE! The flavor combination of the peas, onions, red bell peppers, and tomatoes with just a hint of oil and vinegar. Here’s a nice recipe for it. Just plain lovely. Black-eyed peas or cowpeas are also a nutritional powerhouse because it is a good source of flavonoids like quercetin, protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients such as niacin, thiamine, iron, magnesium, and calcium.

Tahini (Sesame seed butter)

Tahini or sesame seed butter is definitely a dressing that I discovered when I became a vegan and I’m glad that I did. It is creamy, filling, and a great compliment to meals like falafel tacos or even pasta—who knew! Sesame seeds are high in protein, carbohydrates, and dietary fiber. And sesame seeds are rich in phytosterols or compounds that resemble cholesterol in humans and ultimately reduce our blood cholesterol levels. Tahini is made from sesame seeds that are ground or milled into a paste. Tahini has B vitamins like niacin and minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium. Special advisory for those with allergy issues: sesame seeds do contain immunoglobulin E, which are mediated food allergens. When it comes to tahini, basic is best. Nothing tops off a night like a spoonful of tahini over a plate of falafels.

Those are some of the foods I like to combat my caffeine craziness. What do you like?

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Four Tips to Allay Anxiety

Memorial day weekend is finally here! That means cookouts, family gatherings, and late-night fiestas with friends and long-lost acquaintances. But for some of us more introverted folks, that means a potential case of anxiety. Don’t get me wrong—I love to socialize with my peeps when I get the opportunity, which is far and few between these days. But as a WAHM, I’m used to spending hours alone during the week with random social media breaks then afternoons/evenings with my husband and son. So I look at opportunities for social events with lots of excitement and nervousness. Let me be clear: I am referring to mild anxiety that a person may experience with specific events like starting a new job, meeting a potential bae, or speaking in front a group of people. This differs from social phobia that can prevent you from functioning and meeting basic needs. Please seek the help a physician if you suffer from the latter.

Anywho, one of the first things that I like to indulge in foods that are rich in magnesium, calcium, and potassium since those nutrients tend to get depleted during high anxiety times. Some studies suggest that magnesium deficiency may be linked to anxiety. Magnesium works together with calcium and potassium for optimal health. Fortified orange juice and plant-based milk, spinach, and almonds are some great choices. In addition, some research indicates an association between vitamin C and cognitive performance, particularly in older adults, so definitely boost your intake of those foods such as strawberries, citrus fruits, leafy green veggies, and potatoes. Here are some other things that I include in my diet during those anxious moments:

Vitamin B12

Among the vitamins and nutrients that are decreased during times of stress are B complex vitamins. This is bad, very bad. For example, low levels of folate are linked to depression. And deficiency of vitamin B12 has been associated with age-related cognitive impairment. This is particularly crucial for vegans because most vegan sources of B12 only contain trace amounts or are inactive. You can read this article for further details. And while many fortified foods do contain this vitamin, supplementation is the key. I take a B12 supplement in addition to my multivitamin throughout the week.

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Chickpeas

Chickpeas (garbanzo) are a good source of carbohydrates and protein. This pulse contains dietary fiber, zinc, magnesium, and calcium. Chickpeas are also a high folate food. But more importantly, chickpeas have tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin, the good-mood neurotransmitter. Foods with high levels of tryptophan also contain amino acids that all compete for access into your brain so very little of tryptophan gets beyond that blood-brain barrier. Chickpeas are the exception to this crappy scenario. I like chickpeas salads during the warmer weather but I love falafels all day, any day. I enjoy them in salads, tacos, with rice in my own Buddha bowl, whatever floats my boat.

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Walnuts

Walnuts are high in omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. For more on that information, please read here. Some studies have shown links between low levels of omega 3 fatty acids with mood disorders and social anxiety disorder. These nuts contain vitamin E, folate, and fiber. Walnuts also have the antioxidant melatonin, which facilitates sleep. My husband is a real walnut aficionado and he puts them on his morning yogurt. I tend to like them chopped in my baked goods like muffins or other desserts.

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Flaxseeds

Flaxseeds are probably one of the top sources of omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. What’s more, these seeds contain B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and manganese. Some studies have shown that flaxseeds are an anti-inflammatory beneficial in combating cardiovascular diseases and an antioxidant with some anti-cancerous properties. Also, some research indicates that flaxseeds may be effective in conditions such as blood clotting and regulating reproductive function and insomnia. I’m really feeling this flax cracker brand as a snack during my hectic anxiety-provoking afternoons.

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Special note: I absolutely believe in the concept of self-care and highly encourage others to engage in it. So if you need to, take a break from whatever you are doing, breathe, and do what you need to do when you need to do it. Enjoy a safe, happy, and healthy holiday!