Affecting 40 million American adults — 18% of the population — anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States. While most people feel anxious in a tough situation, those with anxiety disorders experience worry and fear that can be overwhelming and may interfere with their daily lives. Anxiety is the body’s natural response to danger. It’s like an alarm that goes off when you feel threatened, under pressure or you find yourself in a stressful situation. In moderation, anxiety can help you stay alert and focused, but when anxiety is constant or overwhelming, it can interfere with your relationships, job and other activities.
The symptoms of anxiety aren’t just emotional. Anxiety is more than just a feeling, and chronic anxiety can affect your health. Some of the physical side effects of anxiety include:
- Upset stomach or dizziness
- Frequent urination or diarrhea
- Shortness of breath
- Tremors and twitches
- Muscle tension
Maintaining a healthy diet is important in many aspects of life. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, keep your body healthy and strong, and keep your mind sharp. Controlling anxiety can be difficult, but simple food choices can make the difference between anxious mood swings and more stable emotions.
Foods That Worsen Anxiety
1. Foods High in Sugar
Foods high in sugar cause blood sugar to spike and dip throughout the day. Unstable blood sugar levels can increase anxiety outbreaks, and research has linked heavy sugar consumption with an increased risk of depression.
A cup of coffee might be your favorite pick-me-up, but drinking too much can cause anxiety. Limit coffee, black tea and any other source of caffeine if you suffer from anxiety.
3. Processed and Refined Flours
Processed and refined flours act like sugar in the body, causing blood sugar fluctuations and making you more prone to mood swings.
If you turn to alcohol to calm your nerves or take your mind off of stress, you’ll want to rethink it. Alcohol actually puts your body into an anxiety-like state, making it more difficult to manage stress.
Foods for Anxiety Relief
Calcium can relax the body and reduce anxiety outbreaks. Dark leafy greens, broccoli, almonds, sesame seeds, chia seeds and orange juice are all great high-calcium food choices. Eating calcium-rich foods before bed can help promote a more restful sleep.
Magnesium-rich foods such as spinach, almonds, black beans, avocado, figs, dark chocolate and bananas can help calm nerves. Magnesium nourishes the nervous system and helps prevent anxiety, fear, nervousness, restlessness and irritability.
3. Vitamin B
Vitamin B is great for stabilizing and regulating mood. For thiamin, add dark green leafy vegetables, lentils, almonds and pecans to your diet. Asparagus and spinach are rich in riboflavin and folate, while Vitamin B6 can be found in bananas, potatoes and leafy green vegetables. Niacin promotes healthy nerve function, and can be consumed through legumes and peanuts.
4. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Foods that contain Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in the body, stabilize mood and regulate brain function. Flaxseeds, walnuts, soybeans, tofu, Brussels Sprouts and cauliflower are all high in Omega-3 fatty acids.