YOU'VE probably heard the phrase 'you are what you eat' countless times.
There is some legitimacy to the saying – it turns out, what you eat can affect your mood.
It's pretty normal to feel anxious at times.
This can mean you're worried, tense or afraid, particularly about something that's about to happen or while coping with a stressful event or change.
But studies have shown that eating certain foods can cause your anxiety levels to spike.
If you want to avoid this unnecessary distress where you, here are two foods and drinks to avoid, according to dietitians.
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Ever felt jittery and stressed after your morning cup of Joe?
While coffee might be giving you burst of energy, it could very well be fuelling your anxiety too, as caffeine is a stimulant.
According to mental health charity Mind, it could also make you feel anxious and depressed, as well as disrupting your sleep.
If you think coffee – or other caffeinated beverages like tea, cola and energy drinks – are making you feel some of the above symptoms, it might be a good idea to switch to herbal teas or decaffeinated versions.
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Registered dietitian Madelyn Larouche, known as the ADHD Dietitian, told Delish that too much of the powerful brew can cause symptoms like excessive worry, rapid heartbeat, sweating and restlessness.
2. Processed food
Chips, a burger, cakes and fizzy pop might seem like a respite when you're feeling down or anxious.
But processed foods can actually wreak havoc on your mood.
“These foods promote inflammation and are often lacking in fiber and other micronutrients that are shown to positively impact brain health and the gut-brain axis,” said Megan Hilbert, MS, RDN, of Top Nutrition Coaching.
“Studies have shown that eating a more traditional and less processed diet, like the Mediterranean diet or traditional Japanese diet, reduces the risk of developing both depression and anxiety by 25-35 per cent, whereas diets high in saturated fats and refined carbs can increase depressive and anxiety symptoms by as much as 70 percent," she continued.
That might make you think twice about reaching for crisps when you're low.
While a post-work drink with friends can be a good way to wind down, too much booze can disrupt chemicals in the brain that are important for good mental health, according to Mind.
What should I have instead?
But there are some foods that are encouraged, if you want to reduce your anxiety symptoms.
1. Fatty fish
Oily fishes like salmon contain vitamin D, which Megan said has been shown to reduce anxiety.
On top of that, they're rich in omega-3 fatty acids – these reduce inflammation in the body and improve brain health she continued.
Meanwhile, Madelyn said that hormone cortisol is release when you're anxious.
"Researchers have found that cortisol depletes our omega-3 stores, so by incorporating sources of omega-3—like salmon, tuna, avocado, walnuts, and flax seeds—we are helping our bodies combat some of the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety,” she explained.
According to mind, additional sources of healthy fats include sardines and mackerel, which are cheaper if you buy them tinned.
The little purple fruit has been touted as a superfood, as it's rich in antioxidants and vitamin C.
It also contains flavonoids – these are compounds found in lots of fruit and veg which are though to benefit our health.
Megan said powerful flavonoids in blueberries called anthocyaninshave been shown to impact brain health and reduce neuroinflammation, which is associated with anxiety spikes.
According to Megan, yoghurt and other fermented foods like kefir, kimchi and kombucha have a positive effect on our gut microbiota.
And this can have a knock-on effect on our brain health.
“90-95 per cent of our serotonin is made in the gut, and this neurotransmitter plays an important role in mood regulation,” she says.
4. Complex carbs
They are basically the antithesis of processed carbs – think quinoa, whole grain pasta and bread, beans, starchy veg and oats.
As well as taking longer to digest – thus giving you a longer-lasting energy boost – carbohydrates naturally stimulate serotonin production, which has a calming effect.
Eating complex carbs is thought to give you a more sustained and stable release of serotonin, helping regulate mood.
5. Green tea
It seems like everyone is talking about how good green tea is for you: from promoting longevity to busting 'bad cholesterol'.
The brew can also have a calming effect thanks to the presence of an amino acid called L-theanine, which lowers levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.
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6. Pumpkin seeds
Megan said pumpkin seeds are one of the best natural sources of magnesium, which helps with stress management and nervous system health.
It brings down stress hormones, like cortisol in the brain, and might play a part in regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, the happy hormone.
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