Anyone who has experienced anxiety, and according to statistics that’s almost 1 in 10 of us at any one time in the UK, knows that it is much more than a state of mind. Characterised by tension, worry, restlessness, irritability, insomnia and an array of other symptoms, it can severely impact on everyday life. Whilst there are a multitude of drugs targeted to treat and manage this condition, for those who want to take a more natural approach, can anything be done through food and nutrition?
When stressed and feeling anxious, the temptation is to go straight for the quick fix- the caffeine, the sugar, the slice of cake that’s going to give you a big hug from within! However, the “high” these types of food bring are short-lived, and the energy crash that inevitably follows can leave you feeling jittery and even more anxious than before. A kinder approach to your body is to eat foods that settle, not stimulate your anxiety. By making choices that nourish your adrenals (the glands that regulate your bodies’ response to stress), support your nervous system, and keep your blood sugar levels balanced, your body will be best equipped to deal with everything that life throws at it. So eat your way to calm, with the following nutrient-rich, anxiety-busting foods that expert recommend:
1) Salmon and other oily fish are bursting with omega-3 fatty acids. An increased intake of omega-3s has been associated with reduced risk of anxiety in many studies, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-zone/201201/anxiety-and-omega-3-fatty-acids. Omega-3s aid in blood sugar regulation and help to prevent the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline from spiking during periods of stress. They also form the building blocks for a happy brain, and a deficiency has been linked to both low mood and depression. For vegetarians and vegans, chia seeds and flaxseeds are the best plant-source of omega-3s.
2) Spinach is rich in folate, an important B vitamin that is converted to folic acid in the body. Depression and anxiety have both been linked to folic acid deficiency. Spinach also boasts high levels of magnesium and vitamin C which are both highly important for our adrenal glands and our body’s ability to cope with stress
3) Turkey- great news for the festive season, turkey is a fantastic source of the amino acid tryptophan which produces chemicals in the brain that boost mood and encourage relaxation. It helps to provide a sense of calmness, and may also aid sleep. Seafood, nuts, beans and pulses are also all great sources.
4) Oats are one of the best foods for boosting levels of the “happy hormone” serotonin in our brain, low levels of which are linked to anxiety. Oats are also packed with B vitamins, which are essential for the creation of important neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system that affect mood.
5) Almonds make the perfect on-the-go snack during times of stress. High in both protein and fibre they help keep the blood sugar levels balanced, and cortisol levels in check. They are also rich in magnesium, otherwise known as “nature’s tranquilliser” which has a calming effect on the nervous system and promotes feelings of wellbeing.
To boost your intake of these important nutrients further, you may also consider a dietary supplement. In times of intense stress, our adrenals are under a lot of pressure and are likely to benefit from additional B vitamins, vitamin C and magnesium. And as a last tip, eat little and often. This will keep your blood sugar levels balanced, and provide you with the vigour to deal with bouts of anxiety in the best way you can.