Too much worrying can lead to anxiety, which may require professional counseling or medication for relief. Nutrition can also serve as a means of relieving anxiety symptoms. The foods you eat can improve your condition whether you have occasional or long-term anxiety. When you make certain foods part of your regular diet, you can protect yourself from the negative effects of anxiety.
Eat frequent small meals to keep your blood sugar levels normal throughout the day. Your body needs to be replenished with foods, especially when you experience anxiety or stress. The body produces adrenaline to deal with anxious moments, then your blood sugar levels drop following a stressful episode. Eat three small meals and three healthy snacks during the day, instead of three large meals, so your energy levels remain steady. Large meals may also cause indigestion, which makes anxiety worse.
Carbohydrates may increase levels of serotonin in the brain, MayoClinic.com explains. Serotonin provides a calm feeling to improve moods. Some medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, increase serotonin levels for patients with anxiety disorders. Eat whole-grain bread, cereal and pasta, baked potatoes, oatmeal and oat bran for complex carbohydrates. Avoid simple carbohydrates, such as sugars, which may cause blood sugar fluctuations. Carbohydrates also increase levels of tryptophan, an amino acid, which also produces a relaxing effect. Tryptophan can be found in such foods as bananas, milk, oats, poultry, cheese and nuts.
Protein foods provide you with energy to combat anxiety. Stick to low-fat protein to avoid too much fat intake, which can contribute to fatigue and anxiety. Lean beef, skinless chicken, fish, low-fat yogurt and other low-fat or fat-free dairy products provide healthy protein. Protein releases the amino acid tyrosine when it breaks down during digestion. Tyrosine may improve alertness by producing the brain chemicals dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine, according to Middle Tennessee State University.
Drinks and Snacks
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to avoid dehydration, which affects moods and may compound anxiety. Limit or eliminate caffeine from your diet. Coffee may provide an immediate boost, but it can lead to nervousness and insomnia, as well. Alcohol also provides an initial feeling of calmness, but can produce feelings of anxiety once it metabolizes in the body. Drink fresh fruit juice instead. Keep fruit, such as apples or bananas, trail mix, nuts and protein bars available to snack on between meals. These foods help you relax during times of stress and anxiety and keep your blood sugar levels normal. Celery or carrot sticks also make healthy snacks to substitute for high-fat sweets.