When you get anxious, what do you reach for? A candy bar? Chips? A blueberry muffin? These foods provide comfort because they contain sugars, a type of carbohydrate. The problem with these snacks, however, is that they provide a momentary "carbohydrate high" before sending you on a mood-busting crash. They are also bad for your overall health and can make you feel bloated, unhealthy, and sapped of energy. However, there are some healthy carbohydrate alternatives.
Which Foods Can Improve My Anxiety?
Although it is not in the only piece of the puzzle in moderate to severe anxiety disorders, a healthy diet can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Carbohydrates are comfort foods, because they release serotonin in the brain, a chemical mood lifter that is considered a natural anti-depressant. However, there are two classes - simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs turn into sugar faster, which is what causes your midday crash and burn. So, stick with complex carbs, such as whole-grain bread, wheat crackers, and whole- grain pasta, and brown rice to get your serotonin boost.
Dress it Up
Whole grain is not always as fun to eat because it doesn't have the flavor of white flour products, so you should “jazz it up”. For example, to make your wheat crackers more interesting top them with diced tomatoes and a bit of oregano. It may take a few more minutes of preparation, but you'll be glad you took the time to make this tasty snack.
One of the caveats of making dressed-up snacks is planning them beforehand. Don't wait until you feel a wave of anxiety rush over you to think about eating because at that point, you're more likely to rush to the vending machine for a sugary or fatty snack instead of thinking about calories and nutrients. If you pack your snacks with your lunch the evening before, you can start your day worry-free. Good snack ideas include trail mix, whole grain crackers with peanut butter, and cheese slices with fruit.
Reduce Your Portions
It's alright to occasionally have bread, pasta, or crackers made with white flour, but when you do, try to cut back on the portion size that you eat. This will ensure that you don't consume too much sugar and that you save room for healthier sides, such as veggies.
Think Outside the Box
One of the most common things that comes to mind when we say “carbs” is bread. However, you can get the same serotonin-inducing carbohydrates from fresh fruits and vegetables. As a matter of fact, an apple contains up to 25 grams of carbohydrates and a banana can contain up to 26 carbohydrates; both also have 33% less calories than a snack-sized bag of potato chips.
Treating Your Anxiety with Carbohydrates
Finding a solution for managing any emotional issue should be the first treatment for anxiety. Talk to your doctor if you feel you are suffering from an anxiety problem. Eating a balanced diet is just one step in leading a healthy life. Click on the following link to learn more about anxiety during menopause.
- National Health Service. (2014). Healthy Eating and Depression. Retrieved November 24, 2015, from http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/healthy-diet-depression.aspx
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014). Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet. Retrieved November 26, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/carbohydrates/art-20045705