You probably already know that healthy eating plays an important role in your physical health. But do you know how much of an impact proper eating can have on your mental health, specifically your anxiety levels?
Nutrition and anxiety can have both independent and interactive impacts on health. Making changes to your diet can be one way of managing and coping with anxiety.
Dietary habits have always been connected to the disruption of energy balance and attention. But how they affect our mood, behavior, and even anxiety disorders is also something we need to pay attention to.
Studies have shown that people with anxiety disorders are more sensitive to certain food substances than others. So if you’ve experienced, or are currently experiencing, a level of anxiety, then you should probably start to pay attention to what you eat and don’t eat.
So… what foods trigger anxiety?
First up: Caffeine. Although caffeine helps us feel more energized and alert for a short period of time by stimulating dopamine, it can aggravate anxiety symptoms in the long run because it depletes serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin in the brain can make you feel irritable and anxious.
Alcohol is another food substance that can intensify anxiety. The blood sugar fluctuations and lactic acid accumulation that it causes can amplify irritability and anxiety if too much alcohol is consumed.
Lastly, we have Refined Sugar. Low fiber foods that have high sugar content can sharply increase your energy levels and also bring them down just as fast. A rapid rise and fall in energy levels can bring about mood changes that worsen anxiety symptoms.
Now that you know what foods to avoid if you have anxiety, what are the foods that you can eat to improve your mental state and mood?
Some of these foods include:
Complex Carbs: Contrary to caffeine, complex carbs can enhance the calming effect of serotonin in our brains. Whole grain cereals take longer to break down in the body and cause a lower, more steady sugar release into the bloodstream.
Choosing whole grains like brown rice and whole oats instead of processed carbs like candy, juice drinks, or sodas will reduce your chance of feeling lethargic and anxious. Instead, they will steadily lift your mood.
High-Protein Foods: stimulate the production of norepinephrine and dopamine, which can improve your mental energy and alertness. Cheese, fish, Greek yogurt, eggs, and nuts should be included as a part of your daily diet to stabilize your energy levels throughout the day.
And combining protein-rich foods with complex carbohydrates can give you a calming experience.
Lastly, you should emphasize Vitamin B Foods: B Vitamins (and Thiamine in particular) tend to improve general mood, while a deficiency in B12 and Folic acid can cause depression susceptibility in some people.
Adding Vitamin B foods or supplements to your diet can improve your immunity to anxiety. Some foods rich in Vitamin B include fruits, eggs, beef, chicken, pork, leafy greens, legumes, and nuts.
As you can see, Nutrition can play an important role in how your anxiety levels are managed. For changes to have a positive impact on your anxiety level, they need to be consistent and steady.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that your diet cannot totally cure your anxiety. But as you can see, certain foods can aggravate anxiety, while other foods can help soothe anxiety and have a calming effect on the body.
By consciously improving your diet and eating the right foods, you’ll be able to decrease anxiety triggers and enjoy better overall health.