A lot of us have felt anxiety as a natural response to certain situations. It develops from factors including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events — a result of chronic stimulation of our autonomic nervous system or our fight or flight mode. Anxiety is also closely related to depression.
Managing anxiety with tools like therapy, mindfulness, exercise, and anti-anxiety medication can help. But did you know that anxiety can be triggered by certain foods we put in our bodies? And that diet can play an important role in helping reduce that anxiety?
If anxiety impacts you, it might be worth it to glance down at your plate — as food affects your mood, and the brain-gut connection relates to emotional health. Our emotions are linked to our nutrition, since 95% of serotonin (happy hormone) receptors are found in the gut lining. Foods can be classified as anxiogenic — anxiety causing, and anxiolytic — anxiety relieving.
Non-starchy vegetables that are dark, leafy, cruciferous, and green are potent anxiolytics. These include kale, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, and brussel sprouts. Complex carbohydrates & wholegrains are metabolized slowly and help maintain an even blood sugar level, creating a calmer feeling. Include spices like garlic, ginger, and turmeric. All these are anti-inflammatory in nature.
Inflammatory foods that are super-processed and high glycemic are the very anxiogenic and should be limited. These include refined sugars, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Alcohol and caffeine fly under the radar — and they should be used in moderation at best.
Deficiencies in micronutrients like zinc, magnesium, omega-3s and antioxidants further exacerbate anxiety. Simply consuming plenty foods containing them quickly reverse symptoms. These include fatty fish (salmon, tuna), nuts, seeds like flax, chia, hemp, and avocado, beans, whole fruits, and berries.