The top 5 food choices that could be affecting your mental health
Change and uncertainty can bring on feelings of stress and anxiety. Over these past few months, the pandemic has made it especially tough by times, to quiet thoughts and relax. Worrying about loved ones, disruption of our routines, isolation and the constant influx of news can be overwhelming to say the least. As a result, many of us are making choices we later regret and then questioning why we can't just get it right. In this blog we discuss the top 5 anxiety-triggering food choices that you may not know you're making.
These stresses can also cause us to indulge in some not so healthy food choices, making symptoms worse, and causing a vicious cycle of eating because we are stressed and causing more stress with the foods we eat. These indulgences may be seriously affecting more than just our waistlines. Certain foods, (especially sugary, sweet treats) have been shown to enhance anxiety symptoms.
Top 5 anxiety triggering food choices:
Once you start looking, it will shock and disgust you to find out how often sugar is added into foods to lower costs and to create dependency. Aside from the obvious weight gain, the equally concerning piece to the detriment of sugar is its connection to mental health.
Consuming sugar causes our blood sugar to spike and crash, and creates changes in the body that can enhance anxiety symptoms. Even though it may provide pleasant feelings at first, the eventual crash can cause anxiety symptoms, mood swings and irritability. Sugar also has been found to be highly addictive. When we eat sugar, there is a sudden rush of the body’s feel good chemical dopamine, and over time, this changes brain function to crave more sugar. This explains why cravings can be so powerful and why sugar can be so hard to give up!
Consuming sugar can also have an effect on cortisol levels. During times of stress, the body releases more of this important hormone. While cortisol is necessary to our fight or flight instincts in times of crisis, when it is out of balance, it can put the body in a constant state of distress. Cortisol is also important for helping the body to metabolize glucose. When these levels are constantly elevated, the body produces excess glucose that causes blood sugar levels to soar. Once again triggering anxiety like symptoms.
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Gluten (meaning Glue in latin) is a protein found in wheat , and is what helps bread and baked goods bind together and also gives them their elasticity and chewy texture. Gliadin is an inflammatory component of gluten and is not easily broken down by digestion and can cause many unwanted side effects such as joint pain, inflammation, fatigue, digestive and skin issues and you guessed it, depression and anxiety. Gliadin also has an effect on the brain’s opioid receptors, that can lead to addiction and mood changes.
When we are stressed, a quick fast food meal can often seem like the perfect comfort food. These foods are typically full of refined carbohydrates and contain highly processed ingredients that have been shown to drain the important vitamins and minerals in our system. A diet high in processed food also contributes to unstable blood sugar, causing anxiety and irritability, and has been shown to have a negative effect on the mental health of children and adolescents.
Another important thing to remember is that when we fill up on these empty calorie, food like products, it leaves less room for nutritious vitamin and mineral rich foods that our body needs to function, causing a lack of important nutrients.
Looking forward to that drink at the end of a long, hard day can seem like a relaxing way to wind down, but alcohol has been shown to have many negative effects on our mental health. While alcohol isn't considered harmful in moderation, excessive drinking or regularly easing feelings of anxiety with a drink, especially in those with pre existing anxiety conditions, can cause severe effects on mental health. Alcohol temporarily relaxes us as blood alcohol levels increase. However, as these levels fall, the effect causes more anxiety than we started out with in the beginning.
Alcohol lowers serotonin levels, lasting long after the blood alcohol level has dropped. Serotonin is an important hormone and neurotransmitter (referred to as the “happy hormone”), responsible for many functions, especially regulating mood and our sleep/wake cycle.
The effects can be felt anywhere from hours later, to throughout the dreaded next day’s hangover. Low blood sugar, another common side effect of alcohol consumption can cause nervousness as well as many other symptoms.
Although some caffeine intake has been shown to have many health benefits, excess caffeine can have anxiety triggering effects.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which can cause a rush of cortisol, producing that fight or flight mode in our bodies. Excessive caffeine consumption can resemble the symptoms of anxiety such as nervousness, rapid heart rate, restlessness, mood changes and sleep issues. Everyone’s tolerance to caffeine is different so there is no magic number that is right for everyone, but if you notice any of the above symptoms after consuming several cups of joe, try cutting back and see if this helps ease symptoms.
It is often easy to overlook the overall importance of the foods we eat. Food choices can have a strong impact on the way we feel, both physically and mentally. There is a surprising sense of well being that naturally comes over us when we eliminate unhealthy foods and replace them with clean, nutrient rich choices. By proactively making the healthier choice, it can be uplifting in itself, positively affecting our mental health.
Crowd out the bad with Nutracelle
Now that we know what food choices to avoid, the next question is HOW? How do you resist the foods that you maybe have enjoyed for years, and years? How do you consciously choose not to partake when every time previously you've said yes? It's hard, don't let anyone ever tell you it isn't... but it isn't impossible.
Crowd out the bad- that means eat so many delicious, healthy GOOD wholesome foods that your body literally wants nothing to do with the bad. Picture yourself walking around the grocery store - you can only purchase what you can carry. You start loading up on fruits and vegetables, and by the time you get to the chips, cookies and pop aisle... your arms are too full.
Are you going to choose to put down your healthy options to carry around the unhealthy junk? I doubt it! You know that choice wouldn't feel good. The obvious choice is to walk past the stuff you don't need: leave the junk behind.
When you have no room for bad food, you won't want it.
We have hundreds of sugar-free, gluten-free, nut-free, healthy delicious recipes available at the touch of your phone screen, or the click of a mouse. Not only that, we also have cookbooks, a cooking show on YouTube, and the best support team around.
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Thanks for reading, fam!