If you’ve ever wondered if your nutrition habits can impact your anxiety levels… the answer is yes! But this doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Yes, certain nutrition habits can definitely trigger anxiety, however, other nutrition practices can actually help to ease it!
How Does Nutrition Impact Anxiety?
For starters, your brain relies on numerous key nutrients in order to function optimally. When you eat a wide variety of fresh, whole foods, you help to ensure your brain has what it needs to keep anxiety bay. But on the flip side, if you’re depleted in any of these key nutrients, you put yourself at a much higher risk of anxiety creeping in.
Another important way your nutrition impacts your anxiety levels is actually through your gut health. The gut and brain are constantly communicating with each other. This means, if your gut is inflamed (from inflammatory or highly processed foods), stress signals are going to be sent to your brain by way of the gut-brain axis. These stress signals cue up those anxious thoughts to come knocking.
But the gut-brain connection doesn’t end there. There are numerous important mood regulating neurotransmitters that are produced within the gut such as serotonin (your happy neurotransmitter), dopamine (your pleasure neurotransmitter), and GABA (your most calming neurotransmitter). By eating all sorts of gut-loving foods you can help to support your body in producing adequate amounts of these powerful mood regulators and thus keep you feeling calm and at ease.
A third way your nutrition can impact your anxiety is through your blood sugar levels. Blood sugar, often known as blood glucose, refers to the amount of sugar found within your bloodstream at a given time. Although it might sound funny to think that you have sugar (glucose) in your blood - this is actually the body's primary source of fuel. Having stable blood sugar levels throughout the day helps to keep your energy high, your hormones balanced, and your mood stable.
When your blood sugars either spike too high, which is often the result of eating highly processed candies, cookies, sodas, etc. or fall too low, which is often the result of not eating enough throughout the day, you elicit a hormonal stress response within your body. This stress response can be yet another cue for anxiety to set in.
So How Can You Balance Your Blood Sugars?
- Eat nutrient dense meals that contain vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and nourishing proteins.
- Eat a balanced breakfast that contains healthy fats and protein. Adding a big scoop of nomz nut butter to your oatmeal is a great way to go!
- Eat whole food based snacks between meals. nomz bites are truly the perfect blood sugar balancing snack to help with this.
- Minimize refined sugars (e.g. white sugar, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup), processed grains (e.g. white pasta, white bread, etc.), and excess caffeine (especially on an empty stomach).
What Foods Can Trigger Anxiety?
Now it’s clear that nutrition habits can certainly impact your anxiety levels, let’s talk about some of the worst culprits when it comes to anxiety triggering foods.
Artificial Food Dyes: Brain scans show that Red Dye #40 has been found to significantly alter brain function and can lead to stomach upset, migraines, jitteriness, nervousness, an inability to concentrate, and occasionally increased aggressive behaviour. (1) Common foods that contain artificial food dyes include most bright coloured candies, sodas, cake icings, and breakfast cereals.
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS): due to its highly processed nature, HFCS can be very inflammatory for the body and brain. On top of this, it can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels – which you now know can be a major trigger for anxiety! HFCS can be hiding in anything from salad dressings, to breakfast cereals, to yogurt and more.
- Foods grown with glyphosate: Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide worldwide. When ingested through the foods you eat it can cause inflammation within the gut which can then lead to neuro-inflammation (a.k.a inflammation in the brain). On top of this, a recent study (2) found that glyphosate has actually been found to have toxic effects on the nervous system. Common foods with high concentrations of glyphosate include conventional cereals (such as Cheerios), granola bars (such as Nature’s Valley), wheat products (such as store bought breads), and soy products (such as soy protein isolate).
To wrap it up, there are most definitely many ways your daily nutrition plays a role in impacting your anxiety levels - either for the good or not!
Here are a few of the best anxiety easing nutrition tips to remember:
- Be sure to enjoy a nourishing breakfast daily. Adding nomz daily nourish super food mix is a great way to start your day with tons of brain boosting nutrients.
- Keep your blood sugars balanced through whole food snacks. Always having nomz bites on hand helps with this!
- Opt for organic as much as possible. Keep an eye out for organic veg and fruit in the produce section and when buying packaged foods always look for the certified organic label like the one pictured below on the Nomz label.
- Minimize your intake of refined sugars, refined grains, artificial food dyes, and excess caffeine
- Have FUN nourishing your body and brain! Try new recipes, eat foods you love, and remember that food is medicine for your body, mind, and soul.