Our anxiety can either be helped or triggered by our eating habits. Here are a few tips for helping your anxiety by your daily nutrition.
Ditch the stimulants – It is easy to pour a glass of wine or perk yourself up with a cappuccino or chocolate bar when you’re anxious and tired. But while the odd treat is fine, a regular coffee, chocolate or alcohol habit is a real stress on the body. Caffeine, alcohol and sugar are all stimulants which cause our blood sugar levels to fluctuate leading to anxiety, mood swings and energy slumps. They also deplete key nutrients such as B vitamins and zinc which we need to remain calm and focused in times of stress.
Have a little protein at each meal – Protein helps maintain blood sugar levels keeping us energized and calm. It also provides important nutrients including magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and calcium, which we require for nerve function and our body’s stress response. Try to include a little protein such as eggs, meat, poultry, fish, pulses, nuts and seeds at each meal.
Eat little and often – This prevents falls in blood sugar and the accompanying feelings of anxiety. Get into the habit of having a small healthy snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon such as nuts and seeds, hummus or nut butter with oatcakes, or natural yoghurt with berries. If you need a sweet fix, go for a nutty flapjack, dried fruit and nuts, or for something more indulgent, a small amount of good quality dark chocolate. If you are currently working on balancing your blood sugars, you should avoid doing this.
Eat foods rich in tryptophan – Tryptophan is one of the raw ingredients for making serotonin, our feel good hormone. It can be found in chicken, turkey, fish, yoghurt, oats, eggs and beans. For a mega dose of tryptophan, try a chicken and bean casserole or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.
Relax with magnesium and calcium rich foods – Calcium and magnesium are both important for nerve function and relaxation. Nuts, seeds, green vegetables, sardines and salmon are good sources of calcium. Nuts and greens also provide good levels of magnesium as does brown rice, oats, rye, buckwheat and quinoa.
Be calm with B vitamins – The B vitamins are vital for combating stress and anxiety. Vitamin B5, the ‘anti-stress’ vitamin, is particularly important as it plays a central role in adrenal function and our stress response. Increase your B vitamin intake with nuts, seeds, eggs, lamb, chicken, rye, oats, lentils and quinoa.
Get your oats – Oats are a complex carbohydrate which means they are great for stabilising energy levels. Oats contain a substance called gramine which is said to have calming properties and herbalists often recommend oat tincture to combat anxiety. Get your day off to a relaxing start with a bowl of warming porridge – sprinkle with nuts and seeds for added protein and nutrients.
Calm yourself with herbs – Chamomile, Lemon balm, hops, catnip, valerian, and passionflower can all promote relaxation. Valerian is useful as a sleeping aid and has been used since Roman times for relaxation. These herbs can be taken as a tea, tincture or in tablet form.
Take time for yourself – Make sure you take time out from life’s stresses and strains. ‘Me-time’ could include bodywork such as shiatsu, reflexology or acupuncture, meditation, a warm bath with Epsom salts, or reading a good book. Don’t feel guilty about shutting the door on the world every now and then – you will feel so much better for it.
Go outside – Research has shown that getting outside and seeing greenery can boost mood and lessen anxiety. Next time you feel anxious, go for a long walk in the park or countryside, do some gardening, go for a bike ride or even fly a kite! Also consider practicing yoga or t’ai chi outside both of which are very beneficial for anxiety.
Laugh and have fun! – One of the best feelings is having a good laugh, and it can boost your health. Get together with a group of good friends for a gossip and a giggle, go to see a light-hearted film at the cinema, go dancing, or visit a comedy club.
Thrive Clinical Nutrition and Naturopathic Health Eve Morley N.T AMNNA FNTP NFPTA