FOOD AND STRESS –
Certain foods have profound effects on our levels of anxiety. What we eat can actually contribute a great deal to our overall sanity and peace of mind. Here is CHAPTER 6, from my book on OVERCOMING ANXIETY.
(you can download the whole thing HERE . Or, just simply continue reading this article. Thank you).
When it comes to anxiety, studies have shown us that there are both hurtful and helpful foods. Knowing what (and what not) to turn to can be another effective tool to strap onto your anxiety-control toolbelt. First, let’s look at some of the good foods.
Tryptophan-rich foods are believed to be good for anxiety. Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps in the body’s conversion of proteins. It’s the ingredient that most commonly comes to mind when we think of Thanksgiving. Particularly, the turkey that almost leaves us comatose.
But actually, despite what we may think, the amount of tryptophan found in turkey is strikingly similar to the amount found in other types of poultry. How do you explain the sleepiness then ? Well… that might have something to do with that third helping of Aunt Rose’s stuffing, and that second glass of red wine. Oops. Nighty-night.
But we should look at how tryptophan is found in many things. To name a few, it’s in chocolate, oatmeal, bananas and cheese. It’s in nuts and peanut butter. And, as mentioned, it’s in turkey.
Tryptophan has a naturally calming effect, which actually, is the reason why it makes us so tired. It is an amino acid, which in general, assists with the production of those mood-affecting chemicals and hormones within the body.
Moving on, there is something else that we should learn to get a regular intake of. That is; vitamin B. A steady dose of vitamin B can be easily attained, either by searching for a vitamin B-rich supplement that you can add to your diet, or by finding foods that contain it.
Such foods include (but are not limited to) spinach, kale, beef, chicken, pork, oranges, eggs, rice and nuts. You might be surprised how many of the tasty foods you love contain vitamin B, once you begin keeping a closer eye on your food’s nutrition labels.
We know that Vitamin B is related to mood, just like other vitamins. This is why a deficiency of vitamin B has been linked with many cases of depression.
Also, we should look for foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates. Unlike the carbohydrates that are found in most forms of processed bread or pasta (which are unhealthy overall), complex carbs take a longer time for the body to break down, and more gradually release sugar into the bloodstream.
Complex carbohydrates can be found in brown rice, whole grains, wheat bread, beans and peas. Whenever possible, try to replace processed foods with foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates instead.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also very important. Like many of the vitamins and hormones we’ve talked about, omega-3 fatty-acids also play a role in mood control and balance.
You can find Omega-3 fats in fish, nuts and seeds. It’s also in flaxseed oil, soybean oil and canola oil. Perhaps the easiest way to incorporate omega-3s into your diet is by including it as a supplement with your daily vitamin ritual. Caution: if you do this, be ready for a mood that’s more naturally balanced. And, a reduced risk of heart disease.
You may also want to start making sure that your diet includes a sufficient amount of magnesium — an element that plays a large number of vital roles in the body. It is a part of too many processes to name. And, it is an element that a quarter of our population is deficient in.
So, to be healthier, and to have a more naturally balanced mood, be sure to get your magnesium on. How? By regularly including things like spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt and almonds in your diet. To find the magnesium-rich foods that best suit your preferences, you may want to conduct an online search of your own.
What else can you include in your diet to help keep anxiety at bay? Think meaty. Think nutty. Think protein. That’s right. This too is an important part of that whole “brain-chemical balancing act”.
When the balance contains the right amount of protein, it means that dopamine and norepinephrine will be present in high enough quantities to increase concentration, mental functioning, and even coordination.
To achieve this, you will want to include a fair share of quality meats, eggs, fish or nuts into your diet. Quality dairy products too can be sufficient sources of protein.
And here, I recommend something similar to what I do with other essential nutrients. That is, to conduct a little research to find your own list of protein-rich foods that best suit all of your preferences.
Now, let’s talk about another anxiety-fighting agent that your diet should include. It’s something that grows on trees. It comes in many colors, shapes and forms. It’s something that artists often try to paint. Do you give up? I’m talking about fruit.
Fruit has good sugars, unlike the refined sugars that we find in our favorite candies, sodas and packaged pastries. Even more, fruit provides us with key vitamins and minerals that nature is best at making. Right there, in those bananas, apples and oranges that fill the bowl on your mother’s kitchen table, you’ll find some of the richest sources of vitamins on earth.
And what about those other things? You know… the ones that are given a special drawer in the refrigerator, right next to the meats? In case you’ve been too afraid to look there, I’ll just tell you… I’m referring to vegetables.
Vegetables are also nutrient-rich. Like fruit, many of them provide unrefined sugar as well, plus that thing we regularly need to keep us… well… regular. Fiber.
The truth is that those of us who suffer from anxiety need more constant replenishing of the essential vitamins and nutrients that everyone needs, being that our bodies deplete of them faster.
And of course, we need something good to wash it all down with. Now, I’m referring to that stuff that comes out of our faucets… although, that’s probably not the best source. Water. H20. Ice in liquid form.
What is the best source? Surely, that answer will vary among the experts. But, many agree that spring water is a good choice to go by. Others will say that reverse-osmosis is the best filtration system. I recommend that you do your own research, giving some say to a voice you trust on the matter.
Water is what our body’s need lots of, as it’s what composes a whopping 75% of them. Isn’t that amazing? Many Americans don’t know this, and because they don’t know it, they are chronically dehydrated. Don’t fall in with that crowd. They’re just bad news. Besides, you’re in the know. So, bring good H2O wherever you go. Honestly. I didn’t mean for that to rhyme.
But I’ll end this section by conveniently drawing attention away from my rhymes and onto that bright little light bulb that must be glowing above your head right now, shedding light on all the new good foods you’ve become aware of to help you combat your anxiety.
Okay folks, now this is the part that I sort of dread… promise me that we’ll still be friends when this is over, because I don’t think you’re going to like hearing about some of the foods that you should avoid. Basically, everything that tastes good. Ouch… did that sound a bit pessimistic? I’m sorry. I’ll try again.
A lot of what we crave, have formed urges for and compulsively binge on, are things that don’t add any value whatsoever to our lives. In fact, a lot of them add negative value. They hurt us, and are contributing to our states of anxiety. Was that better? I tried to sugar-coat things just a little.
Actually, while I’m on the subject, I should mention that sugar is one of those things. Yes… that white stuff that’s in nearly everything we crave. We don’t just like how they taste… we also like that instant high they seem to give us.
The thing is, that high quickly turns into a low. We crash, as sugar quickly gets absorbed in our blood. The pancreas produces insulin to remove that sugar, leaving us with somewhat of a candy hangover.
Next, we should talk about one of your other favorite harmful things. I’m talking about caffeine. It’s in your Starbucks drinks — your coffee, tea and hot chocolate. It’s in our soda drinks and even in regular chocolate. The thing about caffeine is, it hampers serotonin levels, making us feel somewhat down and moody.
Look also at the effect it can have on our rest — it can keep us from being able to fall asleep, which as we know, is a definite common contributor to anxiety. Beware the constant caffeine cravings. Like sugar, caffeine gives us an instant boost, shortly before it leaves us stranded on life’s roadside, needing a lift.
Okay, now here’s where you’re really going to hate me. Put that credit card down… step away from the drive thru window, put your hands up! Surrender to the fact that fried foods are TERRIBLE for you! They are contributing to your anxiety too, placing extra strain on your heart.
Being that fried foods aren’t processed well, they give your body a serious hurdle to leap over in reducing your anxiety. Stay away. Or at least, eat them at a minimum. You might not like the idea now, but you’ll be thankful later on when you get a more lasting good feeling than the kind you get from tater tots.
And now that I’ve already certainly lost you, maybe it’s a good time to talk about another one of your favorite harmful things. Alcohol.
People often drink alcohol because they think it’s helping them with their anxiety. The thing is, it doesn’t last. And, it has a plethora of negative consequences.
Take for example the fact that it is a depressant. Hello? We’re pretty clear that that’s a bad thing, right? I mean… unless your goal really is to hang onto your anxiety, you should let it sink in that quick fixes, of almost all shapes and sizes, aren’t really solutions.
When we are under the influence of alcohol, we aren’t in our clearest state of mind. Of course, this is why some of us like it. The problem is, it gets us to do things we regret (there I go again with that long-term thinking stuff).
It may feel good to feel good for a little while, but it leads to a lot of feeling bad eventually, especially when it throws off those chemical balances in the body that we’ve talked so much about, and leaves you dehydrated, needing a nap and a couple aspirin.
Not to mention, alcohol can actually emulate the physical symptoms of anxiety attacks. Hopefully, there is enough here to convince you that booze is more of a lose than a win. If not, read this section again and again until it sinks in. You don’t have to be a minimalist in all areas… just here, as well as with the other guilty pleasures we’ve mentioned.
Ready to hate me some more? Great. Let’s continue. I have a few more favorite-harmfuls that we need to ex off of our lists.
Processed foods. Here, you’ve got your hot dogs and your pizzas and your pazones. Your cupcakes, your pastries and your cherry pies. But guess what… some of it (if not most of it), is processed, meaning that it might be partially responsible for a lot of our mental health problems.
One group of researchers in Great Britain discovered that depression is linked to processed foods. Why does it seem that as taste goes up, morale goes down? Mother nature seems like she may be a prankster.
And oh yeah… I almost forgot to tell you that you should probably be careful about how much dairy you consume too. Dairy can increase epinephrine, which affects the state of your anxiety.
It’s not the end of the world though folks. At least, I don’t think so. Maybe, we can just learn to keep a check on how much we’re getting of our favorite foods, rather than say goodbye to them forever.
Since food has such a strong impact on anxiety, we can use bad foods like an anchor to keep the SS anxiety safe in our harbors. Make sure you always have a toaster pastry handy to foul up your serotonin. Then, have a few beers to get you depressed, followed by a cup or two of high-caffeine coffee. You’ll be reacquainted with your long-lost anxiety in no time.
This was CHAPTER # 6, from my book on OVERCOMING ANXIETY
(you can download the whole thing HERE . Or, just simply enjoy this chapter).