When we think of anxiety, we think of worry, stress, and tension. We think of it as something that just happens to us; something we can’t control. But the truth is that anxiety is, to a certain extent, aggravated by this one thing that we take for granted.
That thing is food.
The food you put in your body can often be the greatest cause of your anxiety.
We often don’t pay it much attention because it is what we turn to in order to alleviate our anxious thoughts – a bar of chocolate, a delectable dessert, or a slice of pizza can temporarily help us get rid of our blues. But this troubled relationship with our food can be a big aggravator of our anxiety.
But there’s a way to change this. Eating right is often synonymous with ‘dieting’, which is absolutely untrue!
If you want to change your relationship with food and get rid of this ‘diet’ mindset, don’t forget to attend Kool Kanya’s live event, ‘Nutrition Beyond Diet Culture’ with Kripa Jalan, Founder of Burgers To Beasts, on Thursday, February 11th, at 6 pm. Register here!
Learn about the connection between mental and physical health and building a healthy relationship with food, straight from a Nutrition Master from Harvard University.
The Food You Eat Can Affect Your Mental Health
Did you know that loneliness is as lethal as obesity and is also linked to the trifecta of mental health issues including depression and anxiety? Let that sink in. Loneliness is not the same as social isolation – you can be in a room full of people and still feel lonely.
If you think about it, we’re usually fully prepared to deal with cuts, wounds, and physical injuries, but have little to no remedies for the psychological hurt we experience, probably just as frequently.
One of the biggest contributors to the epidemic of mental health conditions is that they are not tangible diseases.
Our well-being is almost never created or destroyed by a single food group. However, inflammation is often the root cause of most modern-day illnesses.
A poor diet causes inflammation in the gut – which then causes neuroinflammation (in the brain), which could be the underlying cause of mental health conditions like dementia, depression, and anxiety.
So, how do we solve a problem like this? By changing our relationship with food.
How To Reduce The Effects Of Anxiety By Eating Right
This skewed definition of of restrictive ‘diets’ looks something like:
You’re excited to start a new diet – you lose weight – you reward yourself – you feel miserable or guilty – you stop the diet – you regain the weight – you start again a few months later.
Here’s the issue – most people don’t want to hear, “Do this for a year and you’ll feel great”. They want quick results and consequently get caught up in this endless cycle. Each time they fail, they think about making things harder – when really they need to make things easier and be consistent with that routine.
Changing how you view food – as something that nourishes your body instead of a setback – can improve your mental health too. Here are some ways to kickstart this journey:
- Stop focussing on your weight, and think about how you’re ‘feeling’ instead. Most of us don’t understand what ‘diet’ means. We think it’s about weight loss and restriction – when it’s really just the food habits a person has. Pay close attention to what food causes your mood to get worse and what makes you feel good. You’ll have your answers!
- Identify anything that is affecting you emotionally. A grudge, a bad experience, a hectic workday – allow yourself to forgive and let things go.
- Always be grateful for your body and the food on your plate. Show gratitude for the food in front of you and remind yourself that you are going to feel happier and more nourished after eating.
- Stop aiming for perfection. A good enough is good enough!
Now that you’ve heard the self-affirmations, here’s a non-exhaustive list of foods to embrace, and foods to avoid to keep your mental health intact:
Foods To Embrace:
- For starters, Omega-3 fatty acids found in flax seeds, walnuts, and even salmon – can have an anti-inflammatory effect on the brain.
- Spices don’t just add flavour to foods, but also have antioxidant properties that can help the brain and our mood.
- Dietary fibre found in non-starchy vegetables and lentils aids in digestion, adds bulk to the diet and keeps your gut happy. When your gut is happy, so is your brain.
- Probiotic-rich foods like plain yoghurt with active live cultures, kimchi, miso, and even apple cider vinegar. These help the good bugs in your gut thrive.
Foods To Avoid:
- Added sugars, which are practically everywhere today and hidden under several disguises.
- Caffeine, in excess, can worsen symptoms of anxiety.
- Research has shown that excessive alcohol consumption is associated with a worsening of anxiety disorders over time.
- Refined vegetable oils and seed oils are a complete no-no when it comes to this spectrum of inflammation, gut health, and wellbeing. This includes corn, canola and sunflower oils.
We think diet and exercise are the two ways to good health. But it’s so much more.
It’s your emotions, it’s your purpose, it’s your sleep, it’s your environment, and relationships that are just as important – but often overlooked.
These tips will help you build a better relationship with food and slowly – but surely – help get your anxiety under control.
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