Nutritionist and Ambassador of kombucha specialist Remedy, Jacqueline Alwill, shares her top tips on what to eat and drink when you’re feeling anxious…
Breathe before mealtimes
When we sit down to the dinner table stressed or anxious, firstly we rarely enjoy the meal, and secondly, we don’t digest it well.
Take time before each meal to stop and breathe – three deep, diaphragmatic breaths should do the trick – which will ease your body into a more restful state, in turn boosting digestion and making your meal all the more enjoyable.
“Breathe in through your nose, deep into your gut, observing the rise and fall of your belly and ribs.
Oxygenating your digestive system, expanding and releasing the tightness that you may feel in the chest throughout the day or leading up to your meal, can help the body switch off the sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ nervous system and allow the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ nervous system to take the front seat.”
Eat the rainbow
If you’re feeling flat and anxious, there are a swathe of foods containing vitamins and minerals known for their de-stressing and mood-boosting benefits.
Tryptophan is needed to make serotonin, which regulates your mood and cannot be produced in the human body alone, while magnesium can assist muscles and nerves in relaxing.
“Foods such as oats, cottage cheese, turkey, eggs, bananas and tofu are high in tryptophan,” Alwill says. “For magnesium-rich foods, go for leafy greens, legumes, avocado and brown rice.
Omega 3 is another fabulous mood-saver, so make salmon, mackerel, sardines and eggs your go-to, or load up on nuts such as pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, and almonds – a handful a day is a great start.”
Drink the good stuff
While the lockdown and, more generally, winter may see you reaching for the bottle, if you’re feeling anxious then some drinks are better than others.
“Keep hydrated with water by drinking at least two-to-three litres throughout the day. And enjoy a live-cultured fermented drink at mealtime, such as Remedy Kombucha — a study found that enjoying ferments may help calm social anxiety,” she says. “At night time, opt for a calming tea such as chamomile to help put your nervous system into rest mode.”
Don’t mix food with emotions
When emotions are high, it’s easy to reach for the fridge door or that block of chocolate, but unhealthy foods have a habit of creating more problems than they fix. Alwill suggests working with breath before leaning on food. “Trying to resolve temporary issues or emotions with food only creates a damaged connection with it and your health long term.”
Trust your gut
Commonly anxiety can make your gut churn when you are emotional; this is your body telling you to calm yourself before you consider sitting down to eat. “Don’t ignore the signals your gut and your body offer you.
Tune in, be trusting in what your body says, create awareness, peace and mindfulness around every nourishing moment with your food,” Alwill says.
It’s the truth no passionate coffee or tea drinker wants to hear, but quitting your caffeine habit will do wonders for your anxiety levels, as will cutting back on alcoholic drinks and sugar-laden foods.
“If you’re feeling anxious, do your best to reduce or remove caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar foods from your diet,”
Alwill says. If you’re heavily reliant on any of these foods, the nutritionist recommends speaking to a doctor. “This will ensure you have a personalised plan to help transition you off these without raising your anxiety with withdrawals.”