Please remember that all mental health experiences are different and experienced in their own unique ways. If you feel in any way triggered, or are struggling with mental illness, please speak to a professional and seek the help you need.
Last week, we talked about how to combat anxiety – part 1. It touched on the different kinds of treatments that are available out there, as well as the foods that may trigger your anxiety and increase/heighten it. Today’s blog post will focus on the foods that are good for you when trying to manage your anxiety.
Impact of Food on Anxiety
Just a little re-cap from last week. Food may play a major role in how much or how little we experience our anxieties. There is enough evidence today, that strongly links a healthy gut with a healthy mind. The more our gut feels well, nourished, and not upset, the likelier we are also feeling clear, sharp, and focussed in our minds. Think about it – if you are having a stomach bug, you likely also feel sluggish, tired, and finding it hard to concentrate. That is the exact connection I am talking about.
We can achieve this state by (1) decreasing inflammation in our gut as much as possible, and (2) eating foods we know our tummy digests well. For example, broccoli is one of the most promoted “health” foods. It does not agree with me. Whenever I eat it, I get bloated super bad and have bouts of diarrhea. Is this a food I should consume? No. I am what I digest and if my tummy is always upset, even though it is “good” then that does cause my bowels to be inflamed and is counter-intuitive to the approach described above. There are plenty of other delicious, whole foods that may, in my particular case, be much better for me.
Foods that Aid in Healing Anxiety
The below is a list of foods that should be added when attempting to heal anxiety through a nutritional approach. The following are the key contributors from a nutritional perspective to facilitate this healing:
- Adding both the amino acids tryptophan and GABA to a person’s diet;
- Ensuring optimal gut health;
- Eating healthy fats;
- Having adequate vitamin and mineral intake, especially Vitamin B, Calcium, Selenium, Zinc, Magnesium and Iron.
Whereas a few exceptional sources for healing are listed below in line with the above-described principles, they should always be consumed in a way that maintains a constant, and consistent blood sugar flow. You can best achieve this by pairing fat, protein, and fiber with every meal or snack.
Salmon is an excellent source of protein, as well as Omega 3-fatty acids, and B Vitamins. Omega 3-fatty acids have been shown to enhance mood, whereas Vitamin B controls the amino acid tryptophan. Be sure to buy wild-caught, rather than organic when buying fish. In order to label fish organic, it means that there needs to be an absolute control on the food source, which can only be achieved in a fish farming environment.
We have discussed eggs many times on this blog, because they are a true, inexpensive, nutritional powerhouse. Eggs are also rich in protein and fatty acids (especially the yolk). They are a rich source of zinc, and contain Vitamin D. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, which in turn, has been shown to lower feelings of anxiety.
Sesame seeds are incredibly high in tryptophan, which helps to stimulate serotonin (our “happy” hormone) production. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. “Essential” means that our bodies cannot produce it ourselves, but we need adequate amounts of it and hence need to get it through our diet. Sesame seeds are also high in calcium. Deficiencies of calcium levels have been associated with feeling unable to relax, nervous, and tense.
Homemade Sauerkraut is a great probiotic for our gut. Studies have shown that probiotics help in repairing the stomach lining and feed good-gut bacteria, which improves our overall gut health. Probiotics can also impact GABA, another amino acid, which is a calming neurotransmitter. A lack of GABA is associated with anxiety, agitation, stress, and poor sleep quality. The good-gut bacteria also help with the absorption of… calcium (can you see a theme forming here?! 😉). By the way, you can also make this amazing Delicious Vegan Kimchi and let it ferment for the same benefits.
Another one of our regulars here on the blog. Garlic has soooo many amazing health benefits it is unreal! In the context of anxiety though, it is an excellent prebiotic, which promotes the development of probiotics and digestive enzymes in the gut. It is also antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial, and helps to eliminate toxins from the body. Garlic may also aid in the absorption of vitamins.
Turmeric is anti-bacterial and a rich source of anti-oxidants. It helps to cleanse the liver, as well as to lower blood sugar levels. Initial studies have also shown that turmeric and its compound curcumin aid in decreasing anxiety. Don’t know how to include more turmeric into my diet? Try my super delicious, speedy, and easy Golden Latte recipe.
These nuts contain exceptionally high levels of selenium, which a lack of has been associated with depression, anxiety, and irritability. Brazil nuts are high in healthy fats and antioxidants, which are associated with a reduction of risk in atherosclerosis and cancer.
Pumpkin seeds are a rich source of healthy fats and protein. They also contain exceptionally high levels of zink, as well as magnesium.
Kale is amazing!! But unfortunately, it is only available in season here in Germany, which is usually from November through to January. That is the reason, why you are getting a picture of spinach 😉. Kale (and other dark leafy greens) contain high levels of magnesium and iron. Both of these have been associated with a healthy nervous system. It also contains B vitamins and antioxidants, which support mood stabilization and overall emotional well-being.
And that is it for this week. I hope the above has given you some inspiration as to how to combat your anxiety – part 2 being all about the foods we should definitely aim to include more of into our diet. Next week, I will share my personal tips on how I manage my anxiety day to day. Be sure to also check out the first blog post in this series – labelled Anxiety. I hope that this blog post has helped you in understanding your food and how it may impact your anxiety better. Please remember, you are not alone on this journey 💕.