Your dietary patterns have a huge influence over your levels of anxiety. The way we eat and the foods we continually choose can either add to our anxiety levels and an increased stress response, or our food choices can assist us in feeling happy, calm, energised and motivated. This blog post is dedicated to helping you understand the connection between diet and anxiety and what you can start doing and eating to manage your levels of anxiety every single day.
1. Always Eat A Nutritious Breakfast.
Your mum was right, starting the day with breakfast is super important for good health. I know that fasting may be the trend right now, but when it comes to managing your anxiety, we need to make some nutritional changes that will support the production of feel-good neurotransmitters to support our brain and a healthy, happy mind.
Breakfast is your first meal of the day and provides your body with nutrients and energy after a long fast. It is the first meal you are putting into your body upon waking and therefore has a significant impact on how you feel.
I highly recommend starting your day with at least 50-80gm of protein. Protein is the building block of all neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine which leads us to feeling happy, motivated and calm. A deficiency in these neurotransmitters can lead to increased anxiety and depression.
Here is what I recommend you eat: 2-3 eggs your way (scrambled, boiled, fried), 1/2 avocado, 1 slice of gluten free bread and optional to add a side of greens, mushrooms or veggie of choice.
(I would like to add, I always recommend eggs for breakfast as not only are they rich in protein but also in Choline. Studies have found that those with anxiety disorder also reported a significantly lower amount (or none at all) of choline in their system. Eating eggs every day is a simple and effective way to increase choline levels).
2. Don't Let Your Blood Sugar Drop.
A constant rise and fall in your blood sugar levels is the biggest culprit in Anxiety and mood fluctuations. Blood Sugar, is the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. These levels are determined by everything we eat and drink. So, as you can imagine, foods higher in sugar result in a higher blood sugar level but also lead to a rapid fall. When these levels are high, so are our energy levels. But when they fall, so does our mood and energy level. It is crucial for good health and anxiety management to stabilise and regulate these levels to a healthy, happy medium. Therefore, this will not result in constant mood swings, anxiety, stress and fatigue.
So how do you balance your blood sugar?
The simplest way is to simply eat constant, nutrient rich meals that are not high in refined sugar. Aim for 5-6 meals a day that contain all macronutrients: Protein, Carbohydrates, Healthy Fats & of course lots of veggies.
Yes, this requires preparation and work but I'd much rather put in a few extra hours of meal prep a week than have to deal with debilitating anxiety. Make the right choices and the best results will always follow.
(A qualified nutritionist (like me) can help to educate you on what particular foods to eat, meal prep and meal planning to suit your lifestyle and make this super simple, just get in touch)
3. Eat Healthy Fats.
Did you know that every single cell membrane in your body is made up of fat? Therefore, your body NEEDS healthy fat to properly function. Your brain, in particular LOVES fat. Your brain could not possibly function without the nourishment it receives from fats consumed through our diet. When our brains are happy and nourished, we feel clear, our memory is better, our moods are more stabilised and this all supports in the reduction of anxiety.
Now, when I say eat more fats I mean those rich in Omega3 fatty acids such as salmon, avocado, chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts and good quality oils like avocado, olive, coconut etc.
The consumption of healthy fats in your meals will also assist in keeping you feeling fuller for longer and support a healthy blood glucose level.
4. Eat For Gut Health.
Did you know that 95% of serotonin (the happiness hormone) is made in the gut? The gut-brain axis (GBA) is the bidirectional connection between the gut microbiome and the nervous system linking our emotions and what we are thinking to our intestinal functions. Therefore, if we do not have a happy, healthy and thriving gut microbiome this will have a significant impact on our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Think of a loop that goes around circulating from our gut to our mind and back again. Both the gut and our nervous system are in constant contact and we cannot nourish one without the other.
How to eat for gut health? It's simple.
Firstly, aim for probiotic and prebiotic rich foods every day (Fermented foods, veggies etc.)
Secondly, cut out any highly processed foods, alcohol and stimulating products rich in refined sugars.
Thirdly, eat a rainbow. Aim for colours, fresh, vibrant foods as close to their natural state as possible.
(My Immunity Glow Up Guide goes into more detail on how to nourish your gut, Shop here)
5. Nourish the HPA Axis.
The Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis (I know, it's a mouthful) is the intertwining connection between the nervous system and endocrine system and is best known for it's role in our bodies reaction to stress. The primary function of the HPA axis is to regulate the stress response. When we experience something stressful the Hypothalamus releases CRH, which signals the pituitary gland to secrete a hormone called ACTH into the blood stream, which travels to the adrenal glands where it releases cortisol, which then supports the body to deal with stress. By nourishing this axis we are encouraging the support of a healthy stress response. When we are chronically stressed and anxious this feedback becomes desensitised and can stop producing the hormones required to deal with stress at the rate that is beneficial for us.
So how do we support this? Here are a list of foods you can incorporate into your diet:
Medium-chain triglycerides - MCT Oil / Coconut Oil
Fibre from Fruits & Vegetables
6. Stay Hydrated.
So simple, yet this seems to be something everyone forgets? Drinking plain, clean water can actually help you to manage your anxiety! When our body starts to feel dehydrated from not drinking enough water, this actually puts us in a state of stress and survival mode leading us to feel more anxious and on edge.
My tip, aim for 8 or more glasses a day. Get yourself a water bottle and carry it on you at all times. This way you won't have an excuse to not stay hydrated.
In summary, consume a protein rich breakfast, eat regular meals and snacks, ensure you are consuming healthy fats as well as a good balance of all other macronutrients, nourish your gut and HPA axis through good dietary practices and lifestyle changes and drink lots of water!
I hope that you have found this post insightful and you will start implementing these nutritional interventions into your everyday routine to assist you in managing your anxiety. Remember, all good changes start with you. Your diet has a significant impact on how you feel, look and act/react. So do your best every day to nourish you mind and your body through healthy nutritional practices. If you are interested in learning more, simply get in touch - email@example.com