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For all of our lives, we have heard about the importance of maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. The link between diet and physical health is clear, but the impact that diet can have on our mental health is less well-understood. In reality, what we consume affects our bodies in ways we cannot see, which can affect our minds in ways we might never imagine. With this in mind, we will look at how diet affects one of the most pervasive mental health issues in Ireland: Anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of worry, fear, or unease. There are several forms of anxiety, such as social, separation, or general. While everyone experiences anxiety, it can be considered a disorder when the fear is disproportionate to the issue at hand. There are several forms of anxiety, such as social, separation, or general.

What to Avoid

One of the main dietary causes of anxiety is caffeine. While small amounts of caffeine can increase our noradrenaline levels, responsible for alertness and our “fight or flight” response, too much can make us hyperaware of the smallest things, leading to anxiety. Disrupted sleep is also more likely when we drink more caffeine, which can not only make us more anxious, but cause is to drink even more caffeine.

While coffee is the main culprit, energy drinks, and even some teas can have higher levels of caffeine. Sugar can have a similar effect as caffeine, giving us a boost of energy followed by a crash. This means soft drinks should be avoided, as should fruit juice. Although fruit juice has lots of nutrients, it also contains a lot of sugar but no fibre. Similarly, white bread contains high levels of sugar, but little wheat grain.

Finally, while it may seem that alcohol has a calming effect, it can not only disrupt sleeping patterns, but also increase anxiety as the alcohol is processed by the body.

What to Try

A breakfast that is high in protein, such as scrambled eggs, can help balance your sugar levels and spread your energy more evenly throughout the day. Complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, wholewheat bread, bananas, or potatoes will also offer long-lasting energy, as well as increase our levels of serotonin, which helps our bodies relax.

But one of the most effective, healthiest, and easiest ways to deal with anxiety through diet is by consuming more omega-3s through fish oil. This can easily be done by introducing more fish into your meals, such as salmon, tuna, or cod. Alternatively, if fish aren’t your thing, you can still get the benefits by taking a one-a-day cod liver oil capsule.

If seeing is believing, it is easy to understand why so many people underestimate the link between diet and mental health. However, the science is pretty clear that what we put in our bodies will affect our minds, so you may find that the best way to worry less about life is to worry more about what you consume.

If you have been dealing with anxiety and would like to talk to someone, reach out to us today.