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8 Foods That Will Keep You Cool, Calm & Totally Relaxed

Here's to a literal taste of tranquility.

Wellness

I don't know if it's age, wisdom, experience or all three but, the older I get, the more aggressive I am about removing any person, place, thing or idea from my life that stresses me out. Yes, I am well aware of the fact that putting "aggressive" in the context of removing stress might seem like a bit of a contradiction, but you know what they say—if nothing changes…nothing changes. Sometimes—shoot, most times—you can't just "will" something to shift in your life. You've got to develop a mindset of progress, then follow that up with habits that will help you to evolve.

When it comes to stress, I've done my research. I'm aware that it is a leading cause of premature death. So yeah, I'm definitely out here looking for things that I can do in order to be anti-stressed out. One thing that might surprise you is, altering your diet a bit can do wonders for keeping you in a cool, calm and totally relaxed state of mind. If that's something you'd like a bit more of right through here, I've got eight foods that can help you to reach your goal.

1. Yogurt

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If you've ever wondered what yogurt is, it's fermented milk that creates a yogurt culture which is basically a form of fermented lactose. As a result of the yogurt-making process, lactic acid is produced; it's what gives yogurt the taste and texture that it has. As far as health benefits go, yogurt is great because it's high in calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamins B and D. This means that it's the kind of food that strengthens immunity and bones, as well as being high in protein and promoting heart and gut health.

The reason why yogurt makes this particular list is thanks to the magnesium (which is a natural nerve relaxant) that is in it. Plus, a study from several years back revealed that yogurt is wonderful at treating stress and anxiety because it can actually lower the levels of activity in the brain that are directly responsible for us feeling emotions and even certain levels of pain.

2. Dark Chocolate

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It's kind of crazy that something so delicious can also be so good for you. If you make a point it eat a small piece of dark chocolate (that contains no less than 60-70 percent cocoa), you can improve your blood sugar levels, fight off free radicals, improve the appearance of your skin (thanks to the antioxidants that are in it), keep your cholesterol levels under control and reduce your chances of getting heart disease by as much as 57 percent. Because dark chocolate also has a pretty good reputation for improving cognitive function, if you find yourself feeling irritated or not being in the best of moods, a little bit of it may be all that you need to lift your spirits right on up.

3. Garlic

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Garlic is the kind of plant (that's a part of the onion family) that is used for all kinds of medicinal purposes. It shortens the lifespan of colds. It improves cholesterol levels. It helps to purify blood. It contains the type of antioxidants that help to prevent the type of oxidative damage that can ultimately lead to Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Speaking of oxidative damage, another benefit that comes with eating foods that reduce it is they can help to decrease stress levels in the body too. Plus, garlic can lower glucose levels which can also induce feelings of calm and tranquility.

4. Citrus Fruit

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You probably already know that citrus fruit has lots of Vitamin C (which means tons of antioxidants). But that's not all. Citrus fruit is also high in fiber, reduces the risk of kidney stones, boosts heart health and strengthens your cognitive function. If you're feeling kinda stressed out, snacking on a few slices of orange or grapefruit, or even sipping on some water that has lemon and lime in it can reduce stress levels. Why? Because that is something that Vitamin C is naturally able to do. Matter of fact, if you'd rather go the aromatherapy route, orange essential oil can relieve anxiety and reduce some of the symptoms that are associated with panic attacks; grapefruit essential oil can help to keep you from feeling burned out and lemon oil can improve your mood and instantly make you feel more relaxed.

5. Bell Peppers

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Whether they're red, orange, yellow or green, you are only doing your health a favor if you eat bell peppers on a regular basis. Not only do they contain vitamins A, C and E, they are also a vegetable that is loaded with fiber, folate and iron. On the health tip, bell peppers contain 30 different carotenoids (a type of plant chemicals) that help to keep your eyes healthy as they also fight off free radicals. Something else that's cool about red bell peppers specifically is, if you eat a cup of them, you'll get over 150 percent of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin C that you need.

Bell peppers are considered to be a "calming food" due to the Vitamin B6 that they have in them. It's the kind of vitamin that helps your brain to produce serotonin and norepinephrine so that you remain in a tranquil mood throughout the day and you're able to sleep more soundly at night.

6. Whole Grains

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In a nutshell, whole grains are foods that consist of the entire grain—the bran, germ and endosperm. When you choose to eat whole grain foods, it can benefit you because, not only are whole grains packed with protein, fiber, antioxidants and B vitamins but whole grains can also lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and reduce chronic inflammation as well as support healthy digestion. If you consume whole grain popcorn, cereal, pasta or bread, another thing that whole grain can do is help to release serotonin into your system, causing you to feel happier and more at ease than before you ate it.

7. Tart Cherry Juice

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Tart cherry juice is something that I am personally a big fan of. I like sour stuff so I will give you a heads up that it does have a bit of a "bite" to it. But, after a couple of cups, it's pretty easy to get used to. Anyway, this is a type of juice that is high in vitamins A and C. It also contains some manganese, potassium and Vitamin K. If you're an athlete, it's great at relieving muscle soreness. One study reveals that tart cherry juice can reduce inflammation that is related to arthritis. It's also the kind of juice that contains antioxidants that help to keep your brain in good condition. Drink it hot or cold before turning in at night and tart cherry juice will significantly increase your chances of getting a good night's sleep; that's thanks to the tryptophan and anthocyanins that's in it. Both of these compounds work together to create melatonin, which is a natural hormone in the body that helps to promote calm and ultimately, sleepiness.

8. Pistachios

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There are several reasons why it can only work in your favor to snack on a handful of pistachios a couple of times a week. They are a pretty good source of protein and fiber. They're also high in copper (which is great if you're trying to fight premature greying the natural way). The health benefits of pistachios include the fact that they are loaded with antioxidants, they help to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and they have amino acid L-arginine in them. L-arginine is good because, when it changes over to nitric oxide in your system, not only can that increase blood circulation throughout your body, it can help your blood vessels to relax as well. Plus, being that pistachios contain more Vitamin B6 than most other foods, it's the kind of nut that can definitely keep you calm, cool and well-rested. Now, how about getting yourself a bag of 'em?

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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