Self / 01.07.2018

Eat to beat anxiety: 5 simple tips

By Natalia Barszcz
Your mental health will thank you later

Affecting 40 million Americans and 8 million Brits over the age of 18, anxiety was reportedly the most common illness in 2015 and, unfortunately, still holds the title to this day. And, according to the Mental Health Foundation, anxiety affects twice as many women as men. So, together with nutritional therapist and nutritionist Fiona Lawson, we’ve gathered five tips on how to lower your anxiety and stress levels with some simple diet tweaks.

As Lawson says: ‘Your food not only provides you with energy, but also influences the delicate balance of your hormones, the production of neurotransmitters, and the regulation of your stress response — all of which come together to affect your mood.’ Here is how you can make sure it stays on a healthy, calm level:

1 Balance your blood sugar
‘When you eat something sweet or starchy, your body works to rapidly remove the sugar from your bloodstream,’ says Lawson. ‘This sharp drop in blood sugar then causes your adrenal glands to release adrenalin. This hormone helps restore normal blood sugar levels, but it also creates a sense of ‘fight of flight’—leaving you feeling on edge.’ These blood sugar fluctuations are a key contributor to chronic anxiety. ‘Rather than eating lots of refined carbohydrates (think bread, pasta and sugary cereals), it’s best to favour whole, naturally fibrous carbohydrates such as fruit and vegetables,’ Lawson recommends. ‘Their fibre means they are broken down more slowly, so their sugar is released more steadily.’

2 Watch your caffeine consumption
Anxiety-prone people usually show reduced ability to metabolise caffeine, which means that the effects last for longer. ‘In higher doses, it can leave a person feeling nervous and irritable, rather than simply alert. It can even lead to heart palpitations. Research suggests that 3 or 4 cups each day (comprising approximately 400mg caffeine) is a beneficial amount of coffee. However, individual responses vary dramatically,’ says Lawson. ‘Listen to your body. Do you have a nice, gentle buzz after one cup of coffee, but a second cup can make you feel a bit jittery? When you tune in, it’s easy to detect your own limit.’

3 Increase your magnesium intake
Magnesium’s main responsibility is stimulation of neurotransmitters, which transmit information in the brain, and regulation of the stress response. ‘A suboptimal level of magnesium can cause both anxiety and reduced stress tolerance,’ says Lawson. ‘Good food sources of magnesium include green, leafy vegetables, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. A supplement can also be a good idea.’

Read more: What it does… magnesium

4 Cultivate your good gut microbes
The state of your gut can significantly affect your mood and overall body performance. When your gut is at its best, you feel light and flourishing – as simple as that. To make this feeling stay for as long as possible and not let it affect your anxiety, Lawson suggests eating a combination of fresh and fermented foods. ‘Eat a wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables – these provide fuel for the good bacteria. Also try to eat 1–2 tablespoons of fermented food daily. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir and kimchi are naturally full of good bacteria. When eaten regularly, they can help crowd out the mood-zapping bad bacteria.’

Read more: Why healing your gut could make you happier

5 Boost your B vitamins
Studies show that boosting your vitamin B6 intake decreases symptoms of anxiety. As B vitamins are the most efficient combined (B1, B2, B3 and so on), try to ensure you consume them all, Lawson advises. ‘Select whole, natural foods such as dairy, eggs and a range of vegetables including broccoli and peas. Aim to eat a wide variety of these foods daily.’

Read more: What they do… B vitamins

Eat to beat anxiety: 5 simple tips
Article Name
Eat to beat anxiety: 5 simple tips
Anxiety was noted the most common illness in 2015 and, unfortunately, this title hasn't changed to this day. As it affects 40 million Americans and 8 million Brits over the age of 18, it is important to raise awareness. Together with nutritional therapist and nutritionist Fiona Lawson, we've gathered five simple tips on how to lower your anxiety and stress level by taking care of your diet.
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Healthy Magazine
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