Anxiety is one of the most common mental problems that has affected a large portion of the population including youth and elderly people. The number of complaints about anxiety is increasing day by day due to hectic lifestyle, work pressure, insecurities related to finances and health. This condition can even lead to some serious complications like depression. Though there is no direct solution to cure this problem, many people wonder if diet can help in curing it.
According to Vedas, food influences our physical health as well as the psychology of the person. It is said that people eating sattvic food can help in controlling anger and gain stability in thoughts and mood. But can it help in dealing with this problem? Let’s discuss this in-depth.
Diet and health issues
There are many diseases that can originate due to unhealthy eating habits, undernutrition, or overconsumption of calories. The food we consume now becomes a metric for choosing food options in the future. For instance, food can influence our mood. Think of your favorite snacks like ice cream or chocolate. Thinking of its flavor can uplift your mood. Hence it is proved that food can influence our mood and behavior.
Contemporary diets and processed foods are liked by the majority of people, but the fat, sugar, and sodium levels are significantly high which becomes an area of concern for health experts. This is the reason why health professionals focus on reducing the levels of these components in the diet. But the reduction of these components can also lead to some unexpected consequences.
Diets focused on calorie reduction are not able to yield long-term benefits in terms of food choices but help in improving the metabolic and emotional wellbeing of a person.
According to experts, anxiety is associated with mood disorders and the prevalence of this health issue is higher among people who consume diets that are low in veggies and fruit but high in fat & sugar. People who are tagged as picky eaters have high levels of anxiety and this can be seen in their fussy behavior. Also, it is observed that many people suffering from obesity consume extra calories whenever they feel stressed.
Effects of diet on mental health at different stages of life
- During gestation
Due to poor nutrition in this stage, people are more prone to many health issues including anxiety. For instance, according to a study, maternal high-fat diets can increase leptin levels and anxiety in their offspring (assessed on the elevated plus-maze). According to another study, maternal diets which include a mixture of junk food can increase the expression of opioid receptors and reduce dopamine transporters in their babies. Although, this effect can be reversed in the later stage of life.
- Diets with high levels of fat and sugar
There are mixed observations in this context. According to a few experts, diet which are high in fat but low in carbohydrates and proteins can help in reducing anxiety levels by 30%. Moreover, it is found that saturated fatty acids cause less anxiety when compared with trans fats.
A solid chow diet along with levels of sugar can increase anxiety levels. On the contrary, withdrawal from a high-sugar diet can also increase anxiety levels. Consuming a high-sugar diet for more than 4 months can definitely increase anxiety levels. Hence it is found that taking care of the diet can help in reducing levels of anxiety.
How does food reduce stress?
Stress can directly affect various mechanisms of the body, specifically blood pressure and blood flow. And the fluctuation of the blood flow can influence mental health. Healthy food can help in regulating the blood flow which in return can help in improving mental health.
For instance, nutrients like omega-3 and vitamin E present in fish, spinach, avocados, etc can help in maintaining blood flow in the brain and fight against stress effectively.
Some diet tips that can help in reducing anxiety
- Add proteins to breakfast so that your sugar levels remain consistent and you are full of energy.
- Add complex carbohydrates like oatmeal, whole grain bread/cereal as these can help in increasing serotonin levels in the body.
- Keep yourself hydrated.
- Avoid alcohol to regulate your sleeping pattern.
- Eat a balanced diet to suppress the problem of mood swings.
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