I’ve written about how food has played a pivotal role in overcoming my most anxious years. I’ve shared my favorite mood-balancing green smoothie. And if you follow me over @adventuresandanxiety, you’ve definitely seen my new favorite hobby (besides snugglin’ with our sweet new puppy, Jack) … Baking! What I’m saying is, I love food.
I enjoy creating and I enjoy consuming. Sharing my favorite recipes with others brings me so much happiness. Plus, I’m over half Italian, so yeah … Food is everything. And most importantly (well, for the sake of this blog post), the food you eat directly affects your mood.
There are some solid studies that show the importance of healthy fats, leafy greens and overall nutrient-rich whole foods to help combat anxiety and depression. But today, I want to dive into something that’s made the biggest difference for me when it comes to food + anxiety: stabilizing my blood sugar.
Let’s take a step back and review a little science here:
- Gut health is connected to brain health, so much so that the gut is commonly referred to as the “second brain” (more on the gut-brain axis here)
- Inflammation in the gut = inflammation in the brain
- Inflammation in the gut and brain has been linked to increased anxiety
- … And what’s one proven way to reduce inflammation? Balancing your blood sugar.
Consuming overly processed, sugary and starchy foods in excess contributes to blood sugar spikes. And what goes up (your blood sugar!) must come down … cue: a crash. When your blood sugar is constantly up and down, it throws off your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is responsible for releasing your stress hormone, cortisol.
In a nutshell, if you’re constantly throwing off your hormones with too much sugar, you’ll never really feel calm and can further perpetuate the feelings of anxiety.
Phew! Okay, that was enough science for today. Thanks for stickin’ with me there.
There are many ways to help balance your blood sugar, and I’m excited to share my favorites with y’all! These four habits have made a noticeable impact on my anxiety levels and can easily be implemented into your lifestyle.
- Replace one meal a day with a nutritionally balanced smoothie. A balanced meal with clean protein, healthy fats, plenty of fiber and some greens (Kelly LeVeque’s “Fab Four” method) means a balanced blood sugar. Blending up a smoothie for breakfast – or for any meal, really – is a simple way to get all the nutrients you need in one cup!
- Not into smoothies? Add healthy fats (e.g. olive oil, avocado) and fiber (e.g. greens, flax, chia seeds) to each meal. These macronutrients help to keep you satiated and stabilize your blood sugar.
- Incorporate apple cider vinegar (ACV) into your routine. Research suggests ACV benefits blood sugar and insulin levels. I do not recommend simply taking a shot of ACV (bleh!), but try diluting 1 Tbsp. in a glass of water, or spice it up with sparkling water and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
- My friend + cookbook author Liz Moody makes a little ACV concoction that I love to sip on after dinner: 1 cup hot water, a splash of ACV, a little honey and a dash of cinnamon. It’s tasty and helps with bloating, too!
- Speaking of cinnamon … It’s been linked to lowering blood sugar. This is an easy one: sprinkle cinnamon in your smoothie, coffee, hot tea, over fruit, or even into your favorite baked goods. I add about ½ tsp. organic cinnamon + this mushroom blend to my morning smoothie and it’s so good!
- Do your research and find what works for you! There is so much information out there on this topic, and I did my best to source everything in this blog post for easy access. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to this, so I encourage you to learn what works best for you and your body through research + trial-and-error. I highly recommend starting with these two books that dive deep into the science of balancing blood sugar and inflammation, provide super actionable tips and information, and include some amazing recipes, too!
I know there’s a ton of information here, but implementing these blood-sugar-balancing hacks into my regular routine really has made such a difference in feeling less anxious and more content. I encourage you to work toward stabilizing your blood sugar through food to reduce those constant, nagging feelings of stress and anxiety.
Have any additional tips here? Please do share them below or connect with me on Instagram!
Please note that I am not a mental health or nutrition professional. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have.