Foods that cause anxiety are among the most commonly consumed.
It is not so-called junk food in itself which leads to anxiety and panic attacks, but the fact that it constitutes such a large portion of our western diet.
Selecting and eating the right foods may prolong your life, but it also bolsters mental stability.
Over indulging in the wrong foods is undoubtedly detrimental to physical health, but also saps your vitality and leaves you constantly feeling strung out and anxious.
Chronic worry is a red hot alert that your mind is mired in the classic fight and flight mode.
Fight and flight is a perfectly normal state if the reason for it is appropriate. It’s instinctive in all creatures.
Animals quickly return to a normal relaxed state after the need for flight or aggression has passed. They also instinctively return to a suitable diet.
Many of us humans on the other hand dwell on dangers that may have long passed, leading to phobias, panic attacks and anxiety.
Not only do we not take action to head off the looming crisis, but we reach for comfort foods.
We convince ourselves that there is nothing we can do about the situation and blame our job, spouse, family life or friends for the mental state we are in.
Whatever the reason for your anxious state of mind, what you consume could be a significant contributor.
Help yourself further by avoiding these foods that increase anxiety, and try the healthy substitutes.
CAFFEINE: Many of us enjoy a caffeine hit sometime in the day, whether it be in the form of coffee, tea or among the plethora of energy drinks.
But, without knowing, you could be sensetive to caffeine. Some of the common symptoms include, shakiness, heart palpitations, general anxiety and difficulty in sleeping. Ignore these
signs and you could be heading for a lasting change in your temperament. Panic attacks might be the eventual result. Even one cup of coffee is too much for some.
Caffeine alternative: Retrain your favourite barista to put just a single shot in your long black. Enjoy the taste but dodge the side effects by switching to decaffeinated tea or coffee. Ditch caffeine altogether and develop a taste for products such as dandelion coffee or herbal teas. Steer clear of energy drinks and drink more water.
Benefits of change: You will return to a more consistently relaxed state. Headaches will be markedly reduced.
SALT: Excessive salt in your diet will increase blood pressure, placing more strain on your heart. This in turn induces your body to produce adrenaline, which is a stress hormone. The result is a nervy disposition and increased tension.
Salt alternatives: Flavor your food instead with herbs and spices. Don’t add extra salt to dishes. Learn to read the packets when in the supermarket and go for the low salt options.
Benefits of change: Lower blood pressure and healthier heart. You become a calmer person.
SUGAR: The fact is, sugar and anxiety go hand in hand. The fructose in sugar causes a spike in the stress hormone, cortisol. This can leave you on a permanent high. A Princeton University study indicates sugar can become addictive. This means heavy sugar users can experience periods of anxiety during the day, as sugar levels drop.
Sugar alternatives: Slowly cut back the amount of sugar you add to your cereal, tea or coffee (decaffeinated or not). You’ll be pleasantly surprised that before long you will be able drink your favorite beverage without any added sugar. Also, be on the alert for other sugar sources, like glucose, dextrose and fructose in some low-fat and processed foods. Sometime “low-fat” does not equate with “healthier” food.
Benefits of change: Periods of anxiety are reduced. Lower susceptibility to diabetes.
FAST FOOD: Research is pretty conclusive that junk food and processed foods are high in fats and sugars and therefore high on the list of foods that increase anxiety. Nothing wrong with the occasional burger on the run. But the problems begin when you start relying on take out foods as part of your regular diet.
Fast food alternatives: Take a brown-bag lunch to work, and include some fresh fruit and wholegrains. It will save you a lot of money in the long run and relieve the stress of a constantly light wallet. Learn some recipes and try cooking a meal from scratch, avoiding packaged or canned ingredients. Snack on vegetable sticks or nuts instead of chocolate and candy.
Benefits of change: A healthy diet featuring foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrains and lean meat mean fewer episodes of anxiety.
HOT FRIES: Most of us love our fries. The trouble is commercially made fries are often made using unhealthy hydrogenated trans fats. Too much of these fats could double your chances of suffering from depression and anxiety.
French Fry alternatives: Make home-baked potato wedges in the oven, with a dash of olive oil.
Benefits of change: Apart from the improvement to your mental health, you will have lower cholesterol levels. Less chance of cardio-vascular disease.
ALCOHOL: Relaxing with a beer or glass of wine is a popular way to chill out. But it is not viable as a long-term antidote for stress. In a similar way to caffeine, alcohol induces your
body to release adrenalin which can result in increased heart rate, and gives you the feeling of being under pressure. This is due to an alcohol-induced drop in blood sugars and added dehydration.
Alcohol alternatives: No need to give up wine completely. try drinking spritzers instead, mixing half wine with half soda water. Avoid spirits, which provide a big alcohol hit. When at a party or restaurant, ensure you have finished your glass in your own time before letting it be topped up. Instead of reaching instinctively for that daily glass of wine, try some yoga or meditation instead.
Benefits of change: Cutting back alcohol intake leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment. This alone can reduce stress levels. Most drinkers worry at some level that maybe they should not be imbibing as much. Alcohol can irritate the stomach and cause damage to major organs, such as the the heart, brain, liver and kidneys. No longer waking up with a hangover or a queasy stomach all help to establish a feeling of well being.
Avoiding foods that cause anxiety in the first place is a strong recommendation for maintaining your mental health.