If you suffer from anxiety, the last thing you want is to eat any food that will aggravate the situation. If you are crazy busy and a bit exhausted, here is a fast guide to make sure that you are avoiding several foods which can increase anxiety and make things a lot worse. By doing that, you will be on the fast track to a calmer and more relaxed existence. Here are 7 food habits to avoid—or at least eat in moderation.

1. Don’t fall into the coffee trap

Coffee is great for a short-term energy boost. However, it also has an effect on the brain whereby it suppresses serotonin, which is a key hormone in keeping you feeling relaxed and calm. As it is a stimulant, you might find that a coffee in the afternoon or evening is going to keep you awake. It is also a diuretic, meaning more trips to the bathroom. Drinking less coffee helps you to save time and stay positive.

2. Avoid the sugar rollercoaster

Sugar is everywhere and the body needs the glucose as fuel. What is the problem, then, you may ask? The spikes in the blood sugar causes the stress hormone cortisol to become the leading actor. This means anxiety can surface far too quickly. We get lots of sugar from milk and fruit. Americans are overdoing it by adding about 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The USDA recommendation is half that amount!

3. Beware alcohol’s downside

It would be too good to be true if alcohol could lift your mood and keep anxiety locked up. The bad news is that the good mood, loss of inhibitions, and newfound confidence are all part of a passing phase. In the long term, alcohol tends to block off the serotonin in the brain that helps to regulate your mood and prevent you from getting caught up in anxious thoughts.

“If you’re feeling anxious, don’t drink to calm down because it will aggravate anxiety symptoms. Booze can also disrupt your sleep.” — Desiree Nielsen, dietitian and author of Un-junk Your Diet

4. Don’t fry your brain

All those fried and highly processed foods, plus dairy and sweet desserts, just increase depression and anxiety. This was the result of one study which found that people addicted to this sort of diet had a 58% higher chance of depression. All the chemicals in these foods are giving your blood sugar levels a really rough ride. Ease off and eat some whole foods such as fish, nuts, fruits, and vegetables for a change.

5. Forget the refined grains

A lot of refined breads and other white foods contain preservatives, sugar, and unhealthy fats. In addition, all the natural vitamins and minerals have been stripped out of the flour in the processing and baking. It is incredible to think that not much has changed in 100 years—in 1911, this poor quality bread was the staple diet of 40% of people in the UK! Today, it accounts for 50% of the American diet. Not much progress here!

The fact is that these refined breads and cookies are mostly sugars and starches which will send your blood sugar levels on another rollercoaster. When you are plunging down into the depths of that ride, do not be surprised to find you are cranky and even more anxious than before.

6. Remember that salt will pile on the pressure

When you suffer from anxiety, you want to reduce all that pressure. When you have a nice, salty snack, you are doing the exact opposite. The surplus salt is increasing your blood pressure levels and your heart has to work even harder. This releases even more adrenaline and tension skyrockets.

7. Don’t skip breakfast (or any other meals!)

Time is of the essence, but if you are skipping breakfast or other meals, then you are asking for trouble on the anxiety front. Skipping meals during the day can cause your blood sugar levels to plunge, bringing on anxiety and irritability.

Another problem is consuming too many carbs and too little protein at breakfast time. You normally need about 25 grams of protein at breakfast to prevent those blood sugar levels from going crazy. Just add in an egg, Greek yogurt, or some cheese to prevent another awful day.

Researchers are now focusing on the possible link between stomach disorders and mood. It may all come down to making sure that we eat the right kinds of food. This will produce the best bacterial environment in our gut, which will in turn benefit our mood.

Some food you should eat to prevent anxiety include spinach, oatmeal, salmon, dark chocolate, asparagus, avocado, oranges, almonds, and whole grains. Eat your way to a calmer and happier you.

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