“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
Let’s first be clear on something.
Nothing you eat has the power on its own to make any measurable difference in the way you feel.
There is no, ‘eat this food and you’ll no longer feeling anxious’.
Anxiety is caused by your thoughts – food cannot change the way you think.
However, that certainly does not mean that ignoring your diet comes at no consequence.
Your diet is another part of the recovery equation.
I don’t like the term ‘Superfoods’. It is misleading and just sensationalism. That said, certain foods are of superior quality in terms of their nutritional content.
Yet this is not the only important aspect to look at.
For me, for a food to be useful as part of your recovery processes it needs to fill all of the following requirements:
- Contains vitamins or minerals required for a healthy functioning brain – these are essential for your mind to operate at its optimum level.
- Does not spike insulin levels – the blood sugar level drop after an insulin spike can quickly lead to you feeling tired and lethargic.
- Sates your appetite – certain foods make you feel fuller for longer, this means you are less likely to snack on poorer quality foods between meals.
Now that does not mean that everything you eat must follow these three rules.
But I recommend you incorporate as many foods which do as a main part of your diet.
Junk food can be consumed from time to time. However, it should be infrequent enough that you do not feel guilty about it.
Otherwise all you do is start off that negative thought cycle.
What foods are best?
Here is my list of the top 6 foods to help you in your fight against anxiety:
This is one of the best lean meats out there. It contains next to no sugars and very little fat, although the dark meat does have a slightly higher saturated fat content.
It has one of the highest protein contents per gram and therefore sates your appetite.
To top it off it also contains the essential amino acid Tryptophan which cannot be synthesised in the body. Most importantly Tryptophan is a biological precursor to (meaning it is broken down to become) serotonin and melatonin.
Serotonin works as a neurotransmitter and is responsible for keeping a balanced mood.
Melatonin helps regulate sleep patterns and is also a powerful antioxidant.
Turkey really is a great food for helping with anxiety and depression.
If you’re not a meat eater or just want another way to increase your serotonin and melatonin levels try 5-HTP. I’ve used it for years as a dietary supplement to help my mood but primarily to achieve more restful sleep.
Salmon is an oily fish and great for increasing your intake of both omega-3 and vitamin D. It is also high in protein which again sates the appetite and is low in sugar, so you won’t see an insulin spike.
Omega-3 is thought to help with a range of mental health issues, specifically with depression as well as slowing cognitive ageing.
Vitamin D is also thought to help with depression and cognitive functions.
Levels of vitamin D from food are scarce, its main source coming from sunlight.
Therefore if you live in an area with low sunlight levels or you spend a lot of the day indoors then salmon is a must for topping up your levels.
Spinach has very high nutritional levels per gram, especially of iron, calcium and magnesium. Best of all it can be cooked from fresh or frozen without losing much of the nutrients as long as you steam or boil it quickly.
The magnesium it contains helps regulate cortisol levels. Cortisol is produced in reaction to stress and magnesium helps in the detoxification of cortisol to reduce your stress levels.
This calming affect can also help you sleep better and feel less anxious the next day.
Finally magnesium also aids in brain function by increasing brain electrical activity which helps with cognitive processes.
Spinach is definitely a winner all round.
The B vitamins it contains are vital for healthy nerves and brain cells. Vitamin B helps us convert other foods into energy and will stop you feeling tired and lethargic during your day.
They are also a great source of monounsaturated fats and contain potassium which can lower blood pressure.
If there was something close to a superfood then for me blueberries are probably it. Their ability to help with brain function is renowned, with some studies showing over a 10% increase in test results (compared with a control group) when 40 or more berries were eaten an hour before the exam.
They also contain a high concentration of vitamin C and act as powerful antioxidants.
Antioxidants help mop up free radicals in the body which can cause damage to your organs. This is nowhere important than in the brain which is uniquely vulnerable to free radical damage because of its high metabolic rate.
Almonds are another food containing a high number of nutrients vital for healthy brain function. They are also a good source of B and E vitamins which help the body during times of stress.
They also contain healthy fats and are great as a snack as they are easy to carry on the go.
As I said at the beginning, eating these foods will not cause large noticeable changes in your mood and outlook.
For me, their biggest role is in helping you have a healthy and well functioning brain and body. This is vital so that you have the energy and cognitive ability to take on your negative thoughts and feelings.
So next time you’re out shopping, look for these foods and try to keep as clean a diet as possible.
Junk food may feel rewarding short term, but in the long run it’s not going to help you feel better inside.
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