Stress and anxiety are something we are subject to at various times in our lives, and sometimes it can be overwhelming.
It can be very helpful to know exactly how to get control of it and your diet is one of the best places you can start.
Comfort foods are a problem
Unfortunately when we are anxious and stressed one of our first responses is to reach for some food to comfort us, and unfortunately that is likely to be both unhealthy and won’t help keep you calm.
As much as you may want to, you can’t make yourself feel better with a bowl of your favourite ice cream. It won’t help – the problem is all that sugar – and spikes in your blood sugar can bring on changes in your mood, and not in a good way.
The other common frequently turned to comfort foods of certain kinds of chocolate, cakes, biscuits and sugary drinks will these not only increase your blood sugar levels but can also increase caffeine which again will not be helpful in calming you down.
What can help
So now you know what it is best to avoid, so here are some of the things that will definitely help you stay calm.
These have lots of antioxidants, which help protect your cells from stress and may help ease feelings of depression.
You can get them from nuts, beans, walnuts, or green vegetables, too.
If this one leaves a bad taste in your mouth, almost any leafy green will do — kale, cabbage, chard. The key is the magnesium, which may help you feel calmer.
Make sure you get enough of that mineral to help keep things in check.
This is a complex carbohydrate and goo because it gets into your system slowly and gives you a steady flow of energy that can help keep you on an even keel.
It also can give you a boost of a brain chemical called serotonin that can lift your mood.
The flavonoids in the cocoa help protect your cells. They’re a type of antioxidant that may also help lower your blood pressure, boost the blood flow to your brain and heart, and make you less anxious.
To get any benefit it must have at least 70% cocoa, but don’t overdo it. The caffeine in chocolate can make anxiety worse if you have too much, and no one needs a lot of extra fat and calories.
Zinc is a mineral that helps our bodies deal with stress. Some diets may not include enough of this mineral.
Good sources include shellfish, chickpeas, lentils and beans and seeds, nuts, dairy. eggs and whole grains.
You may think of vitamin C when you think of these citrus fruits, and that’s a big reason it might help your anxiety.
Some studies have shown that a diet rich in it may help calm you and put you in a better frame of mind and these are all high in that vitamin: watermelon, cantaloupe, oranges, grapefruit, kiwi fruit, mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and cranberries.
They have lots of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help with depression and anxiety. The reason for that may be related to the way they can ease inflammation.
Any oily fish can help so if sardines don’t appeal, try salmon instead.
This one can be a blessing or a curse — the issue is the caffeine. A couple of cups of black coffee a day may boost your mood and energy, and up to four cups seems to be OK for most people.
But more than that can make you jittery and anxious, and some people are more sensitive to it.
For some, the ritual of a cup of tea has a calming effect. Certain herbs — lavender and chamomile, for example — may help, too, along with the antioxidants in the tea leaves themselves.
However remember that black tea generally has about 40 to 70 milligrams of caffeine per eight ounce serving while coffee has about 95 to 200 milligrams so limit that daily cuppa if trying to reduce caffeine.
Cabbage has folic acid, vitamin C, and some B vitamins that may help ease anxiety. If it’s left to ferment — stew in its own juices — bacteria break down sugar and other things and make it taste sour.
These “good” bacteria help keep your gut healthy. They also play a part in making serotonin, a calming brain chemical.
Calf or chicken liver have a lot of B vitamins and folic acid that help make brain chemicals that affect the way you feel. You can get B vitamins from avocados and almonds, but they don’t have B12, which affects your mood and energy level
If you’d rather pass on the liver, you can get B12 in eggs, fish, or chicken or if on a vegan diet your doctor can provide a monthly injection to boost your levels or look for a supplement.
This can be good or bad, depending on how much you have. A drink or two can relax some people, but too much can rewire your brain and make you more anxious.
And heavy drinking can cause problems at work, home, and with your health that lead to more anxiety. No more than one drink a day for women, two for men, is a healthy rule of thumb.
When it comes to helping you stay calm there are plenty of options. Starting with your diet is a good place, and checking your progesterone levels is another as it certainly helps reduce anxiety.
Other methods that work will include meditation, yoga and tai chi as well as therapies such as aromatherapy, massage, homoeopathy and counselling.