Nutritionist and podcaster Rosie Mansfield has focussed the latest episode of FoodHacker on the effects certain foods can have on our nervous systems, sharing hacks on what food you can eat to soothe your anxiety.
In the episode, Eating Away Anxiety, the food Mansfield advises will assist with anxiety are the following;
Complex Carbohydrates (Aka Low Glycemic Index)
In other words carbohydrates that metabolise slower and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling and will boost serotonin. Foods that are complex carbs include whole-grains, oats, sweet potatoes and brown rice.
Omega 3 is integral for brain health. We can also call them EPA and DHA helps. Omega 3 promotes nervous system development and optimises memory function. Foods which are rich in healthy fats are salmon, sardines, oysters, avocados, chia seeds, flaxseeds, nuts and fish oils.
High Quality Protein
You need the essential amino acids in protein to produce neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin (also known as the happy hormones), which have the potential to improve your mental health.
These can help to reduce inflammation and prevent damage to cells by preventing the build up of free radicals in the brain. Foods rich in antioxidants are any fruit and vegetable that is rich in colour, like berries, capsicums and citrus fruits.
Now we couldn’t talk about the brain without mentioning the gut, and to be honest the emerging evidence of the importance of the gut-brain axis is a whole article in itself. Today I am going to skim the surface by simply telling you there’s new evidence that the bacteria in the gut are linked to the workings and the health of your brain. So with the use of probiotic and prebiotic foods we can potentially strengthen our mental health and brain functioning. Some probiotic-rich foods include pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, miso, kombucha, apple cider vinegar and yoghurt. It’s all very new, but I can tell you the researchers are just finding out how a class of probiotics called ‘psychobiotics’ could be used to modify gut bacteria to alleviate anxiety, depression, and LOTS more.
Ever felt low and weird after a night on the tiles? Well that may have been down to missing these guys as alcohol depletes b vitamins. Now B’s are integral for our mental health, as my example shows us and all 8 of them have different roles to play in our body. B vitamins can be found in foods like leafy greens, beans and wholegrains.
There have been some studies that show some positive effects to improving levels of calming neurotransmitters, but the evidence is still a little inconclusive on this one. Vitamin D can be found in foods like salmon, beef liver, egg yolks and cheese. Oh, and of course sunlight and supplementation.
Yup, not just for an athlete with muscle cramps. Magnesium is a total anxiety super food that us nutritionists prescribe on a daily basis to MOST people, because a lot of people are also deficient. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 different processes in the body, but one that is pretty crucial for managing anxiety are its relaxation benefits and can dramatically improve sleep quality. Magnesium can also be found in foods like leafy greens, nuts, seeds, seafood, tofu, dark chocolate, legumes and whole grains.
Now if you think magnesium has a lot of jobs in the body, zinc is working double shifts! Enzymes containing zinc are necessary for the synthesis of serotonin…this means producing more of your happy hormone. Zinc can be found in foods like seafood, meat, leafy greens, beans & seeds.
These sometimes get forgotten, but they really shouldn’t be. I am obsessed with tea, maybe something to do with being British, but I like to call it ‘tea therapy’. I truly believe there is a herbal tea for every mood. Some ones that are especially good for soothing the nervous system are chamomile, lemon balm, kava and passionflower.
Another inexpensive way to promote calm is using these simple and widely available ingredients. I’m a big fan of turmeric which is a spice that contains curcumin which is a compound studied for its role in promoting brain health.
I know we always hear this, but that’s because it’s SO important… Stay hydrated! Dehydration can actually cause mood changes.