Like many, I’ve had my fair share of encounters with anxiety.
It wasn’t always this way. Of course, whenever there was a big test or presentation, I’d get the butterflies in my tummy. But as soon as it was over, my body just bounced back and I would be my happy, calm self again.
That changed for me about 4 years ago. I am not too sure how it happened. If it was slowly progressing and I was just not paying attention, or if it kind of just hit me at once. But before I knew it, I would wake up and go to sleep with that feeling. The one where every single muscle in your body is tense, where your breathing becomes short and choppy. As if I had to be ready at all times to defend myself. Like I was always preparing for the apocalypse of sorts.
This kept going for a while until I ended up in the hospital. And the amazing part is that after countless tests, the doctor told me that there was nothing wrong. In that moment I knew that I was allowing my anxiety to take over my life and my health. That moment was my turning point. I decided to do whatever it took to make this go away. I took up meditation and started researching about all the possible methods and natural remedies that could help. And that’s when I also came across nutrition and anxiety. I mean I have been in nutrition for years and never really thought much about how the right foods could actually be included in my little anxiety-taming-tool-box.
I started paying closer attention to how I felt before, during, and after meals. Here are some observations I made:
-Whenever I had my morning coffee, my road rage driving to work was intensified by 3 or 4 times.
-If I decided to have a second cup of coffee after lunch, I would experience the same intensified road rage driving back home. Like having zero patience with drivers. Granted, anyone that has driven in Miami, in particular around Medley/Hialeah, will know that you can’t really blame me for the road rage. But nonetheless, my body would be in actual physical pain when I got home from so much tension.
-I often craved a lot of sugar because I wanted to feel better. To feel happier. And whenever I had some sort of dessert it would work. For 2 minutes. Because after the sugar high, comes the crash. Which would make me irritable and anxious. I guess in a way like having some sort of withdrawal.
-When I’d arrive home, I was so anxious and worked up that the only thing that I could do is look for some comfort food. Hello stress eating. I would find myself wishing that I kept cookies and chips at home. Because THAT is what I wanted.
If you pay close attention to the foods mentioned above, you can find 3 common foods here: caffeine, sugar, and processed refined, fatty foods. No kidding! Those are exactly the foods that are known for intensifying anxiety. And although wine or beer was not part of my observations since I am not one to really enjoy drinking, but alcohol is also part of this list. These foods were not the ones causing my anxiety, but they were definitely triggering and intensifying my symptoms.
But the good news is that just like foods can trigger anxiety, there are also foods that can help reduce anxiety. It can be your food version of meditation. So here are some foods for your anxiety-taming-tool-box.
Spinach and Leafy Greens: These are one of my favorite vegetables for one main reason. They are so rich in nutrition. They are a great source of B vitamins and magnesium which are closely related to mood as well as relaxation. In fact, having magnesium before bed can actually even help you sleep!
Cashews: Cashews are delicious and so versatile when cooking. You can have them as a snack, top your salad, and even make creams with as a dairy free alternative. They are rich in healthy fats and fiber, which are both great to help maintain blood glucose levels stable. It is also a source of zinc, which it’s deficiency has been linked to higher anxiety.
Brazil Nuts: Like cashews, Brazil nuts are also a source of healthy fat as well as protein which help give the body a sense of calm and satiety. This nut is also a source of selenium which not only is a great antioxidant but also plays a role in mood and anxiety.
Eggs: Historically speaking, eggs is one of the foods that have gone from the good to bad and then back to good list of foods. Eggs are rich in protein, B vitamins, and zinc which often land it in the top superfoods list. For this one I do suggest going organic and certified by the Humane Society.
Avocado: Naturally avocado has to make it to every list. Because let’s just all accept that it’s like the Mary Poppins of fruits and veggies: Practically perfect in every way! It’s rich in healthy fats, fiber, protein, magnesium, and B vitamins.
Almonds – Almonds make for an amazing snack, an earthy gluten-free flour substitute, and a delicious nut butter. They are rich in healthy fats, protein, and B vitamins and they are a superfood that you can easily keep in your pantry and incorporate to your dishes.
As for how this applies to my anxiety?
I try to meditate daily (I’m currently on my longest streak:18 days in a row). I still allow myself my morning coffee. But it’s now half milk and half coffee and I don’t repeat in the afternoon. I often make green smoothies with spinach to get my nutrition in there. I eat eggs at least 2 times per week and avocados pretty much every other night. And my pantry is stocked with nuts. Last but not least, sugar my kryptonite. I am happy to say that I’m working on establishing a healthy relationship with chocolate. Learning how to enjoy it when I want without it being a coping mechanism to my anxiety.
Most importantly, I am all ears to what my body is telling me. Whether it’s back pain, tummy rumbling, headache, hunger, stress. These are all signs that it’s time to go for a quick walk or eat a have a healthy snack or meditate or even to stop working and call it a day. This is something that I work on every single day. Because my health is one of the main reasons why I took off to join the entrepreneurial life. To find balance. To reconnect with my body.