Been feeling anxious or stressed? Nutritionist Robert Hobson reveals 10 healthy foods and drinks you should probably avoid to mitigate stress and anxiety
It’s no secret that what we eat and drink can alter our mood.
There may be certain foods we reach for when we feel low that bring us comfort, or beverages that we know will provide us with some extra energy when we need it.
But often these go to foods and drinks can increase anxiety and stress – even the healthy ones.
Anything that stimulates the nervous system is likely to increase stress and anxiety as the body starts to produce adrenaline.
Certain foods may also increase the risk of certain ailments that could encourage pain which will leave us feeling more anxious and stressed. This includes dental pain, headaches, gut disturbances or symptoms of menopause.
Anything that stimulates the nervous system is likely to increase stress and anxiety
We know from research that stress actually depletes the body of key nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium.
Therefore, eating a balanced diet rich in vitamin B and magnesium food sources alongside plant-based foods alongside lean protein and healthy fats is a good way to eat if you are struggling with stress and anxiety.
Food sources of B Vitamins:
- Leafy Green Vegetables
Food sources of magnesium:
- Pumpkin Seeds
You may want to consider some of the foods listed above by either timing when you eat them or looking for alternatives to include in your diet.
If you are going through a particularly difficult period of prolonged stress you could benefit from taking supplements. Try Healthspan B Vitamin Complex, £5.95 and Magnesium, £9.45.
But without further ado, here are ten examples of healthy food and drinks you’re probably consuming that may increase your levels of anxiety and stress…
#1 Fruit juice
While it counts as one of your five a day and even contains high amount of vitamin C and folate, too much of a good thing may not be that great.
It’s important to try and keep blood sugar levels balanced when you are feeling stress or anxious. However, fruit juice is a source of ‘free’ sugars which can result in sugar ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ when drunk in excess between meals.
Studies have also suggested that 100 per cent fruit juice could contribute to tooth erosion and decay which can be a source of pain and distress which in turn contributes to stress and anxiety.
#2 Beans and pulses
These foods are part of the legume family which contain the richest source of dietary fibre and these foods can help to balance out blood sugar levels as well as offering numerous benefits to health, especially the heart and gut.
However, these foods do take some getting used to. This is due to the bloating and flatulence that is often associated with them after consumption which could leave you feeling worse during times of stress and anxiety.
these foods do take some getting used to
Be sure to introduce these foods slowly and be sure to drink plenty of water.
Lactose intolerance is a common food intolerance and it can occur to various degrees depending on how much dairy someone has eaten.
Symptoms of lactose intolerance can have you running for the bathroom and this can be very stressful if you are not in your own home. The effects may linger throughout the day and this will only add to your anxiety.
Digestive enzymes can help people to tolerate the effects of dairy foods better (try Healthspan Digestive Enzymes – £12.99 for 60 capsules).
Research has shown how supplementing with digestive enzymes including lactase can help to reduce the symptoms of lactose intolerance and also hydrogen breath excretion which is the method of testing for lactose intolerance.
This is probably the most obvious drink to avoid when people talk about diet and anxiety.
Coffee is a rich source of caffeine which stimulates the nervous system and can leave some people feeling jittery and anxious, especially if they are particularly sensitive to it.
Even decaffeinated coffee contains some caffeine which could be felt by some people.
If you have trouble sleeping which often accompanies anxiety, then try to avoid coffee altogether or limit yourself to just one or two cups before midday.
#5 Red wine
Alcohol is a natural depressant and the effects are likely to be worse the more you drink (hangovers do nothing good for anxiety).
Alcohol also disrupts the sleep cycle and other effects can have you waking up through the night which is going to leave you tired the next day which can also contribute to stress and anxiety as your nerves become more frayed.
Red wine has also been shown to be a trigger for migraines
Red wine is also a source of sulphites which have been shown to be related to the risk of developing headaches.
Red wine has also been shown to be a trigger for migraines and while the reasons are uncertain the presence of phenolic flavonoid radicals and the potential for interfering with the synthesis of serotonin (the feel good hormone) are thought to underline the mechanisms that link red wine ad headache.
It’s not easy to recommend avoiding certain fruits and vegetables as so few people manage to eat enough in the first place, but nightshades such as tomatoes may not be the best option for people suffering with psoriasis.
Tomatoes have been associated with psoriasis flare ups
Those suffering with the conditions can become stressed and feel low when they experience a flare-up.
Tomatoes have been associated with psoriasis flare ups which may have something to do with a compound called solanine which is thought to trigger pain in some people but the research is not definitive so it may be more of a case of trial and error.
#7 Chilli peppers
While you may love hot spicy food this may be best avoided if you are struggling with hot flushes during the menopause as these foods have been shown to increase the risk of experiencing them.
During this time women can feel particularly anxious and anything that triggers a hot flush is only going to make things worse, particularly if this also effects sleep at night.
Spicy foods like chillies can also aggravate indigestion and heartburn which can also disrupt sleep quality.
If you need to avoid chili but don’t want to lose out on taste then try spices like paprika which is made from dried sweet peppers.
#8 Mint tea
This health after-dinner drink is a good way to relieve bloating but don’t get hat confused with indigestion. Digestive issues can leave you feeling uncomfortable and this can increase anxiety levels.
Indigestion is also associated with stress so you don’t want to do anything that will make things worse.
Mint tea loosens the ‘valve’ that connect the stomach to your oesophagus which is good for dispelling excess gas but not great for reflux as stomach acid can leach upwards.
#9 Dark chocolate
This is often portrayed as the ‘healthier’ option when it comes to chocolate but it is essentially still a high sugar food and is easily overeaten.
Eating excess sugar between meals can play havoc with blood sugar levels and this may contribute to stress levels and anxiety as you experience a sugar low leaving you feeling tired and stroppy.
Try eating your dark chocolate after a meal to get the best out of your sweet treat.
#10 Coconut oil
This trendy oil is often considered to be healthy and it has even been suggested that it helps with weight loss but the jury is still out on this.
Research is conflicting and there is a lack of long-term clinical trials.
When it comes to calories, fat is still fat and if eaten in excess can promote weight gain which is a huge source of anxiety and stress for many people.
Coconut oil is often used in vegan foods and especially baked goods as a replacement for butter. Don’t be fooled into thinking just because its vegan its good for you.
These sweet foods are often laden with fat and sugar which can unbalance blood sugar levels and increase the risk of weight gain.
Rob Hobson, registered nutritionist is Head of Nutrition at Healthspan and sports nutrition brand Healthspan Elite.
Rob works as a consultant which includes private clients and is also the author of ‘The Detox Kitchen Bible’ and the ‘Art of Sleeping’.
Rob has a special interest in sports nutrition and lives in London www.robhobson.co.uk
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