Foods to Help Calm Anxiety

Anxiety can be experienced from both internal and external factors. While we cannot always fight off the conflicts that arise in our lives we can help our body to better prepare and develop better coping mechanisms for dealing with them.  Food has a key role in helping us to control our anxiety levels.  When our blood sugar levels are lower we are more susceptible to feeling anxious, angry, nervous, and drained.  On the latter side of not being nourished enough, spiking our bodies with too much caffeine and sugar, causes our blood sugar levels to sore and then plummet; that “high and crash” we’ve likely experienced at one point or another is also linked to increasing the anxiety we experience.  Plainly, we want to maintain a good mixture of fat and proteins when consuming our meals and snacks in order to allow the body to prolong energy without overexciting our nervous systems with a high level of sugar.

This week I’ll be reviewing some food groups that can truly help your body on a chemical level develop a better defense against anxiety.  Next week, we’ll go over how our attitude around food and mealtime also shapes how we are able to digest and assimilate the calories we take in and ultimately our anxiety levels.

Here is a list of a few foods to include to prevent and help with anxiety.

Complex Carbs

Think sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, beans, lentils, etc…  These foods are all high in FIBER and slow carbs that allow your body to recognize what it’s digesting and assimilate it into energy efficiently.  They are packed with minerals and nutrients like B vitamins that help your body to break down food and create energy for you to power through your day.  Try eating complex carbs along with a fat or protein for added mental focus and stamina.  For example, sweet potato with avocado and beans mixed on top or oats with peanut butter.

Leafy Greens

How can we possibly have a NutritionChics article without these guys?!  A big reason I’ve included them on this particular list is for their Magnesium content.  Magnesium has over 300 different biochemical reactions within the body, including nervous system function and brain body connection.  Magnesium deficiency has even been proven to cause anxiety (I’m personally an example of this!)  Magnesium is found in all greens, but also many other tasty, nutrient dense foods such as almonds, avocados, and seeds.  Another way to get in your magnesium is an Epsom salt bath.  It makes sense to relieve tension in your muscle, use magnesium.  To relieve tension of our mind also supplement magnesium.  (See my past blog post Magnificent Magnesium for more and a recipe)
Flax Seeds
We are looking at the Omega-3’s in flax seeds that make them especially helpful in fighting off anxiety.  We can also find them in other nuts and seeds, and if you include fish in your diet you can also find higher levels in salmon and sardines.  Omega 3’s lower inflammation in the body (think calming our insides) and thusly reduce anxiety within our body.
Coconut Oil and Other Healthy Oils
Our brain is made up of mostly fat and so are the myelin sheaths lining all of our neurons.  Giving our brains and nerves healthy fats allows them to continue to strengthen and function optimally.  Coconut Oil particularly contains MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) that helps to improve cognitive function.  These fats also work as an anti-inflammatory in the body, allows for blood sugar stabilization-which in turn helps us to manager both mood and appetite.  Include fats at every meal, your body thrives on them and allows for strong cognitive function.
Tea
Not exactly a food stuff, but even thinking of having a cup of tea is relaxing to me.  Feeling the warmth of the mug in your hand is preemptive to the benefits the tea itself actually contains.  L-theanine in tea is a stress relieving compound that binds to GABA receptors in our brains and induces brain waves that result in relaxation.  Crazy right?!  Teas that are especially relaxing include; chamomile, mint, green, white, and roobios.
Whether or not you deal with anxiety daily or intermittently aiming your diet in the direction of whole foods, healthy fats, and plant proteins will help to balance your mood.  Happy mind, happy body!

 

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