“If your diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. If your diet is correct, medicine is of no need”
Ancient Ayurvedic proverb
We all know what we eat and drink is important for our health.
Yet most dietary advice is aimed at maintaining a fit and healthy body.
What a lot of people don’t realise is that the food and drink you consume also plays a big role in the way you feel.
You wouldn’t think eating two double cheeseburgers and drinking a bucket of coke could put you in a bad mood, but it most certainly can.
The sugar crash afterwards leaves you feeling tired and lethargic, and you often feel guilty knowing that you’ve just eaten a load of junk.
When you’re living with anxiety, the last thing you need is to be feeling down, devoid of energy and unfit to the point you cannot get good regular exercise.
Anxiety likes to fight dirty, it kicks you hardest when you are down.
This means it’s even more important to be feeling on top of your game, in a good mood and ready to get out in the world and do what you’ve got to do.
So today I am going to be providing you with 5 simple changes you can make to your diet to help you feel better.
Unlike most diets which can be over complicated and difficult to follow, these changes are easy to do.
It’s best not to even to view them as a diet, just a change in your approach to the way you think about food and drink.
Together they have helped me reduce my anxiety and generally just feel better and happier.
This is because they contribute in the following 5 areas:
- Help with energy levels, wakefulness and motivation
- Help with concentration and focus
- Help with fat burning, getting into good shape and feeling better about your appearance
- Help with deep and restful sleep
- Help with increasing your intake of vitamins and mineral for a healthy brain
Now don’t get me wrong, on their own none of these is going to just make your anxiety disappear.
But what they can do is give your body and mind a sound base to build upon and enable you to start out on the right footing.
So without further ado, here are the 5 simple diet changes to help you feel better…..
1) Avoid sugary drinks and low fat foods
The problem here is sugar and specifically sugar in the form of fructose. Both sugary drinks and low fat processed foods often contain a ton of it.
When you remove the fat from food you also remove a lot of the taste, so to make it palatable the manufacturer will add sugar instead.
Even diet sodas are not great as they trick your body into thinking you’ve just consumed a lot of calories and this can often leave you feeling hungry and prone to over eating.
There’s no other way to put this, refined sugar, when over consumed, is a toxin. Just like alcohol it damages your liver and prompts the body to store fat.
You can watch a good video on the science behind this here.
When you consume foods high in sugar content you also experience a ‘sugar crash’. This can leave you feeling tired and drained and when you feel this way it is the perfect place for your anxiety to thrive.
Recovery from anxiety is made so much easier when you feel alert, awake, full of energy and ready to face the day ahead.
Do not purchase or eat any foods which say ‘low fat’, avoid sugary drinks and instead get the majority of your fluid intake from water, it is all your body needs.
If you want some flavour in your drinks, you could add a slice of orange/lemon or drink some green tea.
Regular tea and coffee (without sugar) are fine too, but only if you do not get anxious from caffeine.
2) Eat like your ancestors
We evolved as a product of our environment. This means we have adapted to live off the natural resources nature has provided us with, not the man made products added to a lot of our food.
Humans have tampered with our food beyond belief and processed food is full of man made chemicals and preservatives.
Have you ever read the ingredients on the side of a microwave meal or sandwich?
Over half the items listed are not something I’d ever use if I were making the same meal at home.
Not only that but a lot of the important vitamins and minerals a stripped out in the manufacturing process.
Eating a diet rich in lean meat, fish, seafood, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds provides you with plenty of vitamins and minerals, which helps keep your brain healthy.
If you are not giving your brain the right type and amount of nutrients it won’t be able to function at its full capacity.
When you can think clearly and focus for longer you are able to make the right choices for your anxiety and continue to make them.
These foods also provide you with a slow release of energy throughout the day which helps you avoid feeling tired and drained.
If a product contains more than 3 or 4 ingredients, don’t buy it.
The fact the food is called a ‘product’ should be enough to set the alarms bells ringing.
If your ancestors from 300 years ago wouldn’t have eaten it, nor should you.
Now this can often leave people feeling that their food is going to be bland and tasteless, but there is a simple solution.
Use plenty of herbs and spices to add flavour. Condiments, although often processed, can be used in small amounts too.
3) Increase your protein intake
Protein contains a number of amino acids which cannot be synthesised by the body.
They are the building blocks of life and help your brain and body repair and function correctly.
This is especially important if you are undertaking regular exercise, both cardio and weight training, as protein is essential for muscle repair and development.
Protein has many benefits, but the most important ones in terms of anxiety are as follows:
- Sates your appetite and reduces over eating and snacking on processed foods – this helps you lose weight and avoid eating sugary foods
- Improves brain function – good quality unprocessed protein provides the brain with important nutrients which help with energy production, wakefulness, motivation and overall cognitive ability.
- Helps you sleep better – when you have more energy to burn during the day you sleep better at night. Some meats such as turkey also contains Tryptophan which is broken down into serotonin (improves your mood) and melatonin (helps you sleep).
- Lowers your blood pressure – high blood pressure can often leave you feeling stressed and anxious
Eat at least 25-30 grams of protein with every meal and make the protein sources as varied as possible.
Lean meat, fish, seafood and eggs are the best natural sources, but avoid processed meat such as bacon, sausages and cured meats.
Make protein the main part of each meal, next add two or three vegetables and if hungry, some carbohydrates such as potato, sweet potato or brown rice.
4) Eat only 2 or 3 ‘real’ meals a day
The idea of snacking was created by the food industry.
To get you eating more often and buying more of their products.
If you walked through the streets 60 years ago you didn’t see people constantly eating as they went about their day. They waited until they got home and had a properly prepared meal with their family.
Nowadays, everywhere you look you see people stuffing their faces with snacks and fast food.
Snacks are not real food, they are almost always processed and of course that usually means high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Snacking is often done out of boredom and anxiety thrives when you have nothing to do but sit there and think.
Instead of reaching for the biscuit jar, go do something productive or get some exercise.
You’ll often find just having a glass of water and keeping busy will keep the hunger pangs aways and you’ll feel much better afterwards rather than having eaten a hotdog or bag of sweets.
Don’t keep snacks in the house and plan your meals out in advance so you’re not tempted to eat as you go about your day.
It’s much easier to avoid snacking when you know you have a nutritious cooked meal waiting for you when you get home.
Keeping busy also helps you avoid eating out of boredom, and guess what, keeping busy is great for reducing anxiety too.
5) Start juicing
The majority of foods are designed to taste good and fill you up.
Now that is all well and good, but if they do not contain the essential vitamins and minerals your body and brain needs to function then they are doing you little good.
The majority of fast foods and cheap restaurant meals contain processed meat and a big helping of stodgy carbs.
If you’re lucky you get a token portion of greens or a small side salad to go with it, but this really is not enough to get the nutrient profile you need.
If you know that the majority of your meals sound like the above, then juicing is a great way to improve your diet.
Getting enough fruit and vegetables in your diet is not always easy to do.
Juicing provides a quick and convenient way to top up your intake and with a little know how can make some very enjoyable drinks.
One of the biggest benefits of juicing is the boost to your immune system and general overall feelings of health and well being.
This in turn helps you feel calmer, more relaxed and able to focus on whatever areas of your anxiety are most important to you.
Invest in a good quality juicer which breaks down the fruit and veg entirely and does not remove the pulp and fibre.
Use as many different varieties and colours of fruit and vegetables as possible, you can also add nuts and seeds as well.
Aim for 1-2 large glasses each day and try and vary what you use each time.
For further help and advice on juicing check out Fit Juice.
It really doesn’t take that much effort to make these changes, it’s just understanding that they really can make a difference and then making a decision to do it.
The most important part is sticking to it because it takes a good few weeks for you to start to see the difference a better diet can make.
I used to eat four or five micro meals a week, snack on chocolate and sweets and drink nothing but sugary drinks. Then I would wonder why I felt so bad, worn out, lethargic and constantly anxious.
It’s something I will never go back to because I’ve felt the improvement it has made in the way I feel. Now it’s just how I eat and I rarely even think about it.
That said I do eat some bad stuff from time to time and that’s where a cheat meal comes in.
Monitoring your diet continuously is not easy and trying to be too strict is often the main reason people fall off the wagon.
So instead allow yourself a meal once a week where anything goes, just eat what you want and eat as much of it as you feel like.
This will do you no real harm and you’ll often find that you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would. By the next day you’ll probably be looking forward to a good portion of fruit and veg.
I’m sure you’ll agree, your anxiety is often worse when you are feeling down and not at 100%.
Well it’s time you got the upper hand by making the changes in your diet to keep you feeling fit and well and ready to face whatever is ahead.
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