Making a commitment to your health by eating right and exercising can be a huge life change.
Life changes can be scary and somewhat anxiety filled.
Occasional anxiety is a part of life. You may feel anxious when faced with a problem at work, before making a big change, or deciding on an important life decision.
But anxiety disorders involve more than temporary worry or fear. Anxiety disorders are typically treated with psychotropic medications and therapy.
However, many people do not know that eating specific foods can help ease anxiety naturally.
There are foods that can help cure anxiety and foods that can contribute to anxiety. By choosing the right foods, you can drastically cut down on the amount of anxiety you experience and possibly improve your mood for good!
How can food influence your mood?
The food you eat ultimately controls your mood because of its effects on your blood sugar levels. If you have too much sugar in your blood, this can be stressful for your brain. Likewise, if you have too little it can have negative outcomes, as well.
You may have too much sugar in your blood stream when you have a meal high in carbs, such as a bowl of pasta or a breakfast pastry. When you do this, the food is broken down quickly into glucose and increases the amount of sugar in your blood.
This rise in blood sugar often gives you a sugar high that lasts a short duration of time. However, this can be dangerous if done excessively and can cause issues such as hyperglycemia - when insulin comes in and brings the blood sugar down.
This drop in blood sugar is what makes you feel sluggish, lazy and foggy.
Following that, your adrenals take effect and produce fight-or-flight hormones (such as adrenaline/epinephrine or noradrenaline/norepinephrine). The release of these chemical messengers results in the production of the hormone cortisol, which increases blood pressure, blood sugar and suppresses the immune system. These hormones cause anxiety symptoms, such as shortness of breath and racing heartbeat.
Typically when we feel on edge, the temptation is to reach for the usual suspects - comfort foods like pizza, pasta, chocolate or even cigarettes and alcohol. NOT GOOD!
This is due to the release of the feel-good molecule serotonin, making us feel a sense of relief…but this feeling is SHORT LIVED! And, unfortunately, this is usually followed by blood sugar imbalances that can make us even more anxious.
This ongoing process is not only fatiguing for your mind and body, but it also has an extreme effect on your hormones.
Blood sugar is a significant and often overlooked culprit in producing anxiety.
Luckily, this can all be managed by what you eat!
Blood sugar balance is a uncomplicated method that involves eating healthy fats and protein with each meal and avoiding refined sugar and excessive caffeine.
Make sure to include these 10 foods in your diet to help control and ease anxiety.
Research shows that low intake of zinc is directly correlated with anxiety and depression. Zinc influences both the nervous system and immune system, as well.
Oysters are packed with this zinc, with only two of them containing well over the recommended daily intake.
It's also important to note that foods like grains and legumes contain phytic acid, an anti-nutrient that can bind to zinc and block its absorption. Keep that in mind when pairing your oysters with your side dishes.
2. Coconut Oil and Grass-fed Butter
Good fats such as butter, coconut oil, cream, lard (from organically raised animals) and olive oil soothe and quiet the nerves.
Coconut oil offers significant benefits for many cognitive, mental and physical health conditions.
Eating healthy fats plays a huge part in blood-stabilization which can help to manage mood and appetite. It is suggested to eat healthy fats with each and every meal!
3. Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables such as swiss chard, kale and spinach fight anxiety because they are rich in magnesium. Magnesium is known as a natural chill pill to keep you calm.
Other foods high in magnesium include nuts, seeds, avocados and dark chocolate. Also, a magnesium supplement may be beneficial if you struggle with getting in your daily dose of leafy greens.
Eggs are a wonderful source of B vitamins and protein, which can be more satiating than a carb-based breakfast.
Throw some kale or spinach in your eggs for a stress-busting breakfast and a boost of magnesium for a great mood all day!
Not all eggs are created equal - the best option is to get them at your local farmers market. And don’t forget the yolk!
5. Oolong Tea
Oolong tea is jam-packed with antioxidants and L-theanine which have been proven to help you relax and stay focused. Oolong tea is known to be a healthy natural supplement that can help with anxiety. Note: Oolong tea does have a small amount of caffeine, so if you’re looking to calm down, you may want to try our trick to wipe out over 65% of the caffeine in each tea bag.
The effects of drinking Oolong tea can accumulate over several days after consumption, so make this your brew of choice on a daily basis and check in after a week to see if you feel the benefits.
6. Complex Carbs
Scientists believe carbohydrates cause the brain to produce more serotonin, a hormone that relaxes us.
Some examples of healthy comfort food include sweet potatoes, all bean chili, and quinoa.
Make sure to eat carbs that are UNPROCESSED. It is best to combine these complex carbohydrates with healthy fats, such as a quinoa salad with black beans and avocado, or sweet potatoes roasted with coconut oil.
7. Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause brain problems that present as anxiety, depression and fatigue.
Vitamin B12 is typically known for its physical health benefits, such as an increase in energy and immune system function.
What many people do not know, is that vitamin B12 can greatly influence your mental health, as well. B12 can also support heart health, which is important if you suffer from anxiety or panic attacks, which cause immense stress on the heart.
Foods high in vitamin B12 include sardines, liver, raw cheese and milk, eggs and tuna. If you are vegan or vegetarian, a B12 supplement may be the best idea due to B12 vitamin being found in animal products.
8. Bone Broth
Not only does bone broth make you look good, but it will make you feel good, too!
Bone broth is a natural and rich source of collagen. Due to this, bone broth has a powerful effect on the skin. Moreover, bone broth has gained a lot of popularity because of it’s ability to heal the gut.
Anxiety alleviation comes from the action of glycine in bone broth. Glycine is an amino acid that slows down the production of norepinephrine which induces feelings of anxiety. This can either decrease specific instances of anxiety or lessen the intensity of the feelings when they do come on.
Starting or ending your day with a hot cup of bone broth is a great idea to nourish your gut, ease anxiety and aid digestion.
L-tryptophan is an amino acid that has been linked to the calming effects you may feel after eating Thanksgiving turkey. L-tryptophan is a precursor to the brain chemical serotonin, which helps regulate mood and promote calm and sleep.
Lowering tryptophan levels activates a parallel drop in brain serotonin production and can influence mood, weaken memory and amplify hostility.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is produced by the body, but is additionally found in foods such as oats, bananas and, of course, TURKEY!
10. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The brain is extremely perceptive to inflammation and requires a continual source of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fats to protect it.
These fats support neuron communication and aid to develop healthy brain cell membranes that fight off anxiety.
Fatty fish that is high in omega-3’s include wild Alaskan salmon, mackeral and tuna. Likewise, nuts and seeds such as walnuts, chia seeds, almonds and flaxseeds are also very high in omega-3’s.
Fish oil supplements are another great option to get your daily dose of omega-3’s in case you aren't too fond of cooking up and eating fish.
Avoid These 7 Foods If You Suffer From Anxiety
Now that you know exactly what foods to eat to manage your anxiety, you should also know which foods make anxiety worse so you can avoid them!
1. Refined Sugar
After eating sugar, you may experience a short burst of energy, but then your blood sugar levels drop, which can leave you feeling tired and sluggish.
When blood sugar levels get too low, known as hypoglycemia, you may experience symptoms of anxiety.
When sugar levels swing from high to low, your hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are released, which can cause anxiety and panic.
To treat anxiety symptoms related to blood sugar levels, eat whole foods and balance your diet with an appropriate amount of protein and carbohydrates.
Trans-fats are found in foods such as margarine, snack food, packaged baked goods, and oils used to fry fast food. These can clog arteries and prevent blood flow to the brain.
Consuming artery-clogging trans-fats can increase your risk of depression by as much as 48 percent, according to a study published in PLOS ONE.
Conversely, plenty of studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet, which traditionally utilizes olive oil rather than trans fats, can lower the risk of numerous health conditions, including depression.
3. Excessive Caffeine
Caffeine is a stimulant that increases your blood pressure and heart rate. Caffeine can also cause restlessness, agitation, nausea, diarrhea and insomnia.
Coffee, certain teas, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and even some foods contain caffeine.
In your body, the chemical adenosine inhibits central nervous system activity. Caffeine competes with adenosine and stimulates your central nervous system.
Caffeine may make you feel pleasantly alert, but in other people, it may cause anxiety and panic symptoms, especially in people predisposed to anxiety disorders.
If you suffer with anxiety you may benefit from reducing your caffeine intake.
4. Food Additives such as MSG, artificial colors/flavors, artificial sweeteners, preservatives
Man-made food additives have been used for so many years to enhance the appearance and flavor of our foods, but not many people realize just how bad they are. The ones that could trigger anxiety the most are:
Aspartame - Also known as Sweetener (951), aspartame is used to replace sugar in a number of products, from “sugar free” soft drinks to gums and other tabletop sweeteners. Researchers have found a link to regular consumption of aspartame with a number of health conditions, including anxiety.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) - HFCS is a highly refined sweetener that can be found in most processed foods. HFCS is very high in calories and like aspartame, is considered a contributing factor to a number of illnesses.
MSG - This is an amino acid that is used as a flavor enhancer in soups, dressings, snacks foods and frozen foods. MSG is an excitotoxin, which over excites cells to the point of damage. Regular consumption is known to trigger depression, headaches and fatigue.
Food Dyes - Food dyes are sometimes added to soft drinks, salad dressings, fruit juices and cheeses. Some food dyes, particularly Red #40 & Yellow #5, can disrupt normal nervous system function, which may increase symptoms of anxiety.
5. Processed Foods
Refined sugar and processed fructose and grains are key contributors to insulin and leptin resistance, which also plays a significant role in your mental health.
One recent study found that high-glycemic foods (including those high in refined grains and added sugar) were associated with higher odds of depression and anxiety.
A review published in the December 2007 issue of "Pediatric Clinics of North America" states that some people have sensitivities to certain foods that, when eaten, might make them more prone to anxiety or mood instability.
The most common food allergens are gluten, seafood, wheat, corn, dairy, eggs and nuts.
You may believe that drinking alcohol reduces anxiety and promotes relaxation, but consuming alcohol can actually cause anxiety.
Alcohol affects your mood because it interferes with serotonin in your brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood.
Alcohol contains sugar and may cause fluctuating blood sugar levels, which can produce symptoms of confusion, dizziness, nervousness and restlessness.
Alcohol can also cause dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration, including nausea, fatigue and muscle weakness, all of which can lead you to become anxious.
If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, it may be in your best interest to change up your diet. Always be sure to run it past your doctor first, but there is definitely no harm in getting healthy and leaving bad habits in the past.
Before the use of medications, which may not necessarily be needed, try adding a few of the foods listed above to help ease your mind and get you on the path to freedom from your thoughts.
Do you have any experience with changing your diet and curing your anxiety? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health & Happiness,
P.S. You can start by drinking 1-2 cups of Oolong tea daily to aid with mood, concentration, alertness, digestion, energy, and overall health. Pick up a box (or 2) and begin your journey to health & wellness today!