9 Invaluable Nutritional Advices to Ease Anxiety
Diet choices can worsen or ease anxiety.
The importance of nutrition to physical health is well-established by now. But did you know that it’s at least just as important for your mental health?
Some deficiencies can for example directly worsen anxiety, and the same holds true for overindulging.
But likewise, there are nutritional choices you can make that will reduce anxiety and improve mental health.
Take a look at the list below and see what can be implemented into your own life.
1) Don’t skip breakfast
You’ve probably heard the saying, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.
I’m not sure if that’s necessarily true, it might not be the MOST important meal of the day, but it definitely shouldn’t be skipped, and here’s why.
- Whenever you’re not eating or drinking your blood sugar level is slowly sinking, and generally the longer you go, the lower it’ll drop. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as extended fasting is fairly well known to have positive effects on health. But it’s important to note that big fluctuations in blood sugar levels don’t play well with an anxious and stressed mind. It more than likely makes things a whole lot worse.
- It’s an important step in maintaining a daily routine, something we’ll talk more about later.
- Mornings are typically stressful, which is arguably the worst way to start a day if you’re anxious. A habit of eating breakfast makes for a good opportunity to sit down and relax before starting your day.
2) Get some healthy snacks
Snacking arguably gets a bad rap, but I don’t think it’s entirely deserved.
Sure, if you snack on candy and soda, that’s not exactly a healthy habit, but who said snacks have to be so darn unhealthy?
In truth, having some healthy snacks spread throughout the day between bigger meals like breakfast and dinner is a great way to keep your blood sugar stable.
It also keeps you feeling somewhat full so you don’t get the urge to overeat as soon as the opportunity strikes.
I usually snack on fruit, nuts, and smoothies personally, but feel free to get creative as long as it’s healthy food!
3) Stay hydrated
Drinking more water is one of the simplest things you can do right now to make anxiety more manageable. (Unless you’re already getting enough water).
Chances are actually quite good that you’re dehydrated right now. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re feeling thirsty, you’re already dehydrated and should be drinking more!
The Mayo Clinic estimates that men need around 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) and women need 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of water per day.
And remember that soda, coffee, tea, and similar drinks shouldn’t be counted. They are more likely to send you running to the toilet than they are to keep you hydrated.
4) Shy away from simple carbohydrates
Carbohydrates can be divided into two broad groups, simple and complex.
Simple carbs typically refer to refined sugar, like the kind found in sodas and sweets. These lack any nutrients, are processed very quickly by the body, and can lead to rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar levels.
Complex carbs on the other hand, like starches and fiber, are processed slowly, help you feel fuller, and have many health benefits, especially to the digestive system.
Ideally you want to minimize and avoid simple carbs, and get most of your energy from complex carbohydrates.
It doesn’t exactly help that most packaged foods are filled to the brim with simple carbs, so the best option is typically to make as much food as possible from scratch with fresh ingredients.
5) Whole foods is the way to go
Whole foods can be defined as foods that have not been refined, processed or had anything added to them.
Some common examples are:
- whole grains
- meat, fish, and eggs
- nuts and seeds
These foods are generally safer and healthier to consume and can have a very positive effect on mental health.
To improve mental health you want to replace as much refined and processed food with whole foods as possible.
You can for example trade out soda with juice, sugary snacks with nuts or fruits, packaged and prepared dinners with home cooked meals, avoid anything deep-fried, and always opt for whole grain when available.
6) Choose a varied diet
Varying your diet is the most reliable way to make sure your body gets all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that it needs.
An apple a day is for example said to keep the doctor away. But eat nothing but apples, and you’ll end up in the ER with iron deficiency anemia and a handful of other deficiencies.
Likewise, eating nothing but meat would leave you with next to no vitamin C, fiber, or antioxidants.
The same goes for any other food group you can imagine. Not varying your diet is a one-way ticket to deficiencies and a likely source of increased anxiety.
Getting a bit of everything also opens for some exciting experimentation in the kitchen, so it’s really a win-win!
7) Cut Down on Coffee
I’ll be the first to admit that I drink waaay too much coffee, and that I probably ought to cut down on it.
And if you’re like me, prone to anxiety and unable to go a day without at least a few cups of coffee, you should at least be aware of the risks.
The reason why caffeine mixes so badly with anxiety is because it activates the exact same pathways and reactions in your body.
This essentially means coffee makes anxiety less manageable and can set off panic attacks.
Note also that caffeine is found in more than just coffee, for example in tea, chocolate, certain cereals, and even some medications, so it pays off to be a little wary.
8) Eat Together with Others if Possible
Families who eat together are healthier, both physically and mentally, than those who do not. That’s what all the studies seem to show anyway.
Take for example this 2017 study from the university of Montreal, they found that: “Children who routinely eat their meals together with their family are more likely to experience long-term physical and mental health benefits”.
There’s many reasons why this practice is likely to have mental health benefits.
- Just like with breakfast, sitting down to have dinner with family or a group of friends is an opportunity to relax and slow down. That’s very different from the mindless eating we might do in front of the TV or computer.
- Socializing and building connection with others is one of the most beneficial actions we can take for improving mental health.
- Eating with others offers an opportunity to be more mindful and grateful, both strong indicators for good mental health.
9) Create a Routine
When you eat is really just as important as what you eat.
Not only will eating at regular hours help your blood sugar levels stay stable, but it also helps you organize your time.
I’m personally a big fan of keeping most things neat and organized to manage anxiety, and how you spend your time is not an exception.
There’s simply less room for anxiety and stress if your days are organized and planned out.
As for when to eat, I don’t think there’s a definitive answer that’ll work for everyone, and really the most important part is to have a routine.
But if you want something to follow, the formula below is how I tend to organize my days:
- Breakfast 30 minutes or so after waking up.
- A small lunch three to four hours after breakfast
- A light snack between lunch and dinner
- A second light snack a few hours before going to bed