I just finished my final research paper for my Food Therapy class at the Natural Gourmet Institute. My paper was on Nutritional Approaches to Anxiety, and since I did so much research, I thought I’d share my findings with you!!
I chose to focus on anxiety for my research paper because it’s an issue that I see in many of my clients, friends, and people in general (especially New Yorkers). Life moves at a lightening-fast pace, there’s pressure to get things done bigger, better, and faster, and with excessive mental stimuli, feeling true calmness can be a rare and fleeting treat!
The most common symptoms of anxiety are constant worrying, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, desire to escape, and fear (often a vague feeling of unease). Millions of people choose to take anti-anxiety medications – and the side effects of these drugs include drowsiness, mental confusion, slurred speech, memory loss and delirium.
Anxiety can be dramatically decreased without using pharmaceutical drugs, and diet plays a huge role!
The top culprits that cause increased anxiety:
Caffeine – One study showed that doses of caffeine over 300mg caused a dramatic increase in tension and anxiety (a Starbucks grande-sized coffee has about 330mg).
Sugar – Consuming refined sugar causes a drop in blood sugar levels, leading to symptoms of anxiety (weakness, irritability, light-headedness, etc).
Artificial Sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners are compounds of chemicals that deplete serotonin in the brain, which leads to stress, anxiety and depression.
Alcohol – Over time, consumption of alcohol makes anxiety worse, and many heavy drinkers end up becoming clinically anxious, developing more serious anxiety disorders.
Foods to consume to help reduce anxiety:
Bananas – These contain tryptophan, which promotes a relaxed state of mind by stimulating serotonin production, and magnesium, which contributes to lower stress levels. In addition, bananas contains potassium, which lowers blood pressure. Musicians have even been known to eat bananas before shows to conquer performance anxiety and to reduce symptoms of stage fright!
Seeds – (particularly pumpkin & flax seeds) – contain magnesium (for nerve function) and omega-3 fatty acids. Clinical studies show that patients with high anxiety levels also have omega-3 deficiencies.
Leafy Greens & Brown Rice – both contain B vitamins, which help to lower anxiety. Vitamin B6, prevalent in both leafy greens and brown rice, helps the body convert tryptophan into serotonin, which makes you feel more relaxed!
Kuzu (a root powder from the kudzu plant) – According to Dr. Annemarie Colbin, kuzu is one of the best relaxing remedies. Find her recipes for kuzu pudding here.
If your diet consists of sugary cereals & yogurts, diet sodas, coffee and alcohol, and you feel anxiety, eating well-balanced meals that include healthy fats, protein and carbohydrates (in the form of vegetables and whole grains) can really help!
Aside from food, examples of other natural and holistic methods of reducing anxiety include exercise, Bach flower essences, massage therapy, talk therapy, yoga, reiki, acupuncture, meditation, supplements, and Chinese medicine.
Want to relax on the spot? Check out these breathing exercises from Dr. Andrew Weil. (Check out #2, “Relaxing Breath”).
The food/mood connection is strong! Eat for happiness.
*If you’d like to see any specific references, please contact me.