We all suffer from anxiety from time to time but did you know that the foods you eat can increase your risk of feeling anxious? Instead of simply indulging in whatever foods our stressed out bodies are craving, simply varying our eating habits can help in decreasing feelings of anxiety. We sit down with acclaimed dietitian and nutritionist Rebecca Gawthorne to uncover the three foods to avoid if you’re anxiety prone…
What Causes Anxiety?
Anxiety can be caused by inadequate brain levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA, which help to reduce the influence of stress hormones as well as excessive excitatory hormones such as glutamate and epinephrine. If the ubiquity of stress-eating is any indication, food and emotions are inextricably linked. More than a source of comfort, certain foods can also exacerbate and contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. Processed foods in particular tend to perpetuate a vicious cycle of guilt, anxiety, cravings and over-eating, making it hard to stop eating once you start.
While it’s important to note that food is not the sole cause of anxiety, it certainly plays a part in the intensification and frequency of it. If you’re a naturally anxious person, it is worth bearing in mind that certain foods can increase your risk.
We sat down with Rebecca to uncover the top three foods to avoid if you’re anxiety prone…
Foods & Drinks High in Refined/Added Sugar: “Think commercial soft drinks, chocolate, biscuits, ice-cream, cakes, cordial & foods that are highly refined that will spike your blood sugar levels. When consumed, these foods can cause a rapid rush of sugar to your brain followed by a rapid drop in energy which can heighten feelings of anxiety and prevent your brain from functioning clearly.”
Energy Drinks & Coffee: “Perhaps the most obvious culprit on the list, coffee can stimulate your nervous system, release the stress hormone cortisol and trigger your fight-or-flight response. Due to the effect on your Adrenal glands, any supplements high in caffeine can increase your heart rate and in turn, increased symptoms of anxiety.”
Foods That Are Low-Fat/No-Fat: “Your brain needs healthy fats to function effectively so avoiding foods that are low in fat or contain no fat can help to trigger feelings of anxiety. Foods that contain little or no fat include but aren’t limited to: condiments, refined grains and candy. Rebecca explains “Consuming healthy fats is actually essential if you are anxiety prone as they help to stimulate brain function and increase”
What Do You Suggest?..
Rebecca suggests replacing sweet, refined foods with “low GI and wholegrain foods that will supply a steady flow of energy to your brain such as oats, whole grain breads, fruit & home-made, healthier versions of those listed above”
Instead of energy drinks and coffee, Rebecca suggests replacing these “artificial drinks with water, tea or even Matcha Tea. These still contain caffeine but are often referred to as calm energy.”
Instead of buying low-fat or no fat foods, Rebecca believes that “including healthy fats into your diet such as salmon, tuna, nuts, seeds & Avocado can reduce your risk of anxiety.”
What Is Your Expert Advice?..
While there is no singular cure for anxiety, Rebecca suggests that “the best plan food wise is to eat a natural, wholefoods diet that contains lots of vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, lean proteins and healthy fats.” Her mantra: “Choose water and limit your “extras”.