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Eat To Beat Your Anxiety!

The election has taken a toll on all of us. We’re seeing patients come in stressed out, frazzled, anxious, and ready to blow a fuse. We’ve given breathing drills to calm the nervous system, suggested restorative yoga poses, and offered hugs all week. The stress and anxiety around our unknown future takes a toll on everyone’s bodies and minds.  The one recommendation we have not given enough is how to use food to calm our nerves…who knows how many of us ate an entire bag of potato chips that night waiting for election results until 3am. There are certain hard and fast rules everyone should follow for better digestive flow, more energy, and less anxiety: Don’t skip on breakfast–make it good, with healthy fats and proteins. Eat regularly. And don’t eat for a couple of hours before bed.

To take it to the next level and really feel how your food choices affect your mental health, here are 6 food-types you should consider adding to your diet, and 5 you may want to avoid because they can actually increase anxiety or even make you depressed!

To Eat:

  1. Beef (and other Vitamin B-rich foods) Studies show a significant relationship between B vitamins and your mood. Because our nerves and brain cells need ‘em, a deficiency in B vitamins like folic acid and B12 can lead to depression and anxiety. Beef, pork, chicken, legumes and eggs all qualify as B-rich! Add in some asparagus to up your folic acid fast.
  1. Avocados (and other “good fats!”) Avocados are a great source of anti-inflammatory and blood sugar stabilizing monounsaturated fatty acids, which reduce the blood sugar spikes that lead to anxiety—and they’re good for your heart. Other good sources: olive oil, raw nuts. For a delicious creamy breakfast treat to start the day right, blend an avocado into your smoothie!
  1. Blueberries (antioxidants and vitamin C, baby) Blueberries may seem like no big thang, but they’re loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C—both of which you need to repair and protect your cells when you’re stressed. And they’re delicious in yogurt or all on their lonesome.
  1. Salmon (omega-3 jamboree) There’s ever-growing evidence that omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) found in salmon (and other fish in the sea), put you in a better mood. They can reduce your chance of heart disease and keep your cortisol and adrenaline from hitting the ceiling when you’re feeling stressed too.
  1. Greek Yogurt (and other high-protein foods) Protein stimulates the production of chemicals in your brain that act as neurotransmitters, improving mental alertness and clarity. Get it from Greek yogurt, meat, cheese, eggs, nuts, and lentils—to name a few. For serious mood-boosting power, combine with a complex carbohydrate like whole grain rice!
  1. Greens (chill out naturally with magnesium) Leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in magnesium, which regulates cortisol levels to make you feel real good. 1 cup of spinach fulfills 40% of your daily quota, so do it up in an omelette, sub it in for lettuce in your salads, or drop a handful into your stir-fry.

Not to eat:

  1. Caffeine If you drink coffee (or other caffeinated beverages) for the boost, you’re not alone. Thing is, caffeine inhibits serotonin levels in your brain, which can make you anxious and irritable. Not to mention: it can keep you awake, and you need good sleep to feel positive! I too love coffee, but I cut myself off after 10am.
  1. Sugar Who doesn’t associate ice cream or chocolate with comfort? But it’s temporary. Sugar gets absorbed into the bloodstream fast, causing a surge of energy. But it wears off as the body increases insulin production to get that sugar out. And you’re left feeling lethargic. There’s also evidence that sugar has an actively negative effect on mental health; it’s been linked to higher levels of depression and schizophrenia.
  1. Alcohol The idea that you can drink your worries away is a persistent one, but most of us know there’s no magical elixir. You may feel better at first, but alcohol is actually a depressant, and increases your susceptibility to anxiety. If a good glass of red is one of your joys in life, drink in moderation.
  1. Trans Fat AKA hydrogenated fat, this has got to be one of the worst foods for human health, and for your moods too, of course. You’ll find it in French fries, processed foods, candy, etc. Studies have found that trans fat makes you more prone to anxiety-like symptoms.
  1. Gluten Even if you don’t have Celiac Disease, you may still suffer from some level of gluten intolerance—and this can show up in the form of anxiety! If you feel more anxious after eating wheat products, go gluten free and re-evaluate!

Not only will these foods put you on the path to a healthier heart and happier gut, they will steady the nerves as we watch our country start to shift. Eat well, get out there and have a voice, connect with your people and loved ones, and fuel up to protest. If want more information, as always, we are here to help. Dr Clarke is the queen of dialing in your nutrition so you’re not starving your body, but rather feeling like you’re getting exactly what you need. To reach us, we are right down the block from all the protests in front of the Trump Tower, call 212-355-0445 or

Best in health,

Dr Emily Kiberd