It’s has only been in the last six months that I’ve properly considered the role that food has played in exacerbating my anxiety. When I eat badly – too much sugary food, too much bread and pasta – I can feel my anxiety building – […]
In my usual pre-flight mad dash through the airport, I did a sweep of WH Smith for my standard holiday pile of magazines (I find reading fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar so relaxing on holiday! I don’t really know why, though? 🤔) and decided to pick up a couple of books as well.
I spotted this book, Anxiety for Beginners, mainly due to its Roy Lichtenstein cover image riff and although not light reading, thought it might be interesting to dive into this topic a bit more while I had some more headspace before my exam.
The author, Eleanor Morgan, has suffered from anxiety and depression since her late teens, culminating in several breakdowns and rounds of antidepressants. She decided to write the book as a way of educating herself and others about one of the fastest growing illnesses in the UK.
As a fellow anxiety sufferer, I read this book with a lot of interest, hoping to get more insight into how other people were handling the day to day management of the signs and symptoms of the disease. What really struck me was how common anxiety is, how many different ways it manifests itself and how it really cuts through all walks of life.
The author told a fascinating story about re-connecting with the most popular girls in her school years later during the writing of this book. She discovered that what she had thought was her old friend’s ‘cool girl aloofness’ was really her way of trying to manage her anxiety in the best way possible for her – holding everyone at a distance. It made me realise how quick we are to judge others, without really knowing what’s going on in their lives. Personally, I know that I can appear withdrawn and a bit cold at times, especially when my anxiety is at its peak and social interaction with new people can all be a bit too much. A bit more compassion is needed all around, going back to the old adage: don’t judge a book by its cover.
Overall, I thought this book was a good overview into anxiety, with a lot of the author’s personal experiences interspersed throughout. What I found disappointing was how little she discussed the effects of the various food and drink we put into our bodies and how they can exacerbate and ameliorate anxiety symptoms. The author took a very medicalised viewpoint, emphasising the benefits of anti-depressants. Obviously, given my nutrition background, I would’ve like to see more discussion about tryptophan food and the effect they have on producing serotonin, as well as the role of gut bacteria in supporting serotonin production.
The root causes of anxiety and depression can be complex and vary per person, but it stands to reason that if you treat your body like a garbage dump, filling yourself with foods that aren’t nutritionally dense and cause blood sugar spikes, your anxiety can be worsened.
I’ve written a bit about the foods I eat to help manage my anxiety here.
I haven’t felt like writing much about food and nutrition recently. There’s been a lot going on, personally and professionally. New job, a heavier course load at school and loads of political distraction (every morning, I wake up and think, ‘what now?’. Don’t you?). It’s […]
This weekend, I really fancied an open-faced sandwich, but had no bread in the house. I shuffled through the cupboards and found a bag of sweet potatoes and decided to see what sweet potato ‘bread’ tasted like. Stay with me… it was pretty good.
I brushed an oven tray with olive oil and grilled them for 20 minutes on each side.
And topped with some mashed avocado, broccoli spouts and pulled pork that I had in the fridge. A simple, yet filling lunch, so these are definitely getting added into my lunch repertoire!
What you need:
1-2 large sweet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
Any desired toppings – the sky’s limit here! Anything you would normally put on toast, from sweet to savoury, you can put on these sliders!
A large baking tray
How to make it:
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C
- Slice the sweet potatoes into 1 cm slices
- Brush both sides of the sweet potato slices with the olive oil
- Put the tray into the oven on the highest shelf and bake for 20 minutes or until they are soft and slightly browning.
- Take the tray from the oven and turn the sliders over and bake for another 20 minutes or until they match the texture and colour of the other side.
- Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Top with your chosen toppings and enjoy!
I’ve been a bit fluey the last couple of days. It’s almost like there’s been a dominoes of illness in my house and I was the last one standing. I dislike being ill (does anyone actually like it?) and do everything I can to get back to full health as quickly as possible.
My list of flu remedies always includes: lots of rest (or as much as I can get with a little 3 year old that loves to give Mama rough and tumble cuddles that will “make her feel better”), steaming hot showers, turmeric tonic with added oil of oregano (or this version for a kick!), Pukka lemon and ginger tea and many soups with homemade bone broth.
I tried out a warming cauliflower soup this afternoon, as I was craving soup and I had a massive head of cauliflower I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with. I love food with a little heat, a little kick, so this was exactly what I needed on this cold and rainy day in London.
What you need:
1 small onion, sliced thinly
3 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 red pepper, diced
1 tbsp cooking fat (I used ghee)
1 medium / large cauliflower, leaves removed and roughly chopped
2 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp dried coriander
1 tsp salt
500mL bone broth / stock (or vegetable stock for vegans / vegetarians) – you may need to add less broth, depending on the size of the pot you’re using
1 large cooking pot
Optional: 1 tbsp coconut cream or 1 sprig fresh coriander to garnish (per bowl)
How to make it:
1. Place the pot on medium-low heat and add your chosen cooking fat. Once the oil is heated (this should take 1 minute max), add the onions, garlic and red pepper. If the onions start to brown too quickly, turn the heat down slightly – you’re sweating the vegetables to bring out the flavours. Sweat for 5 minutes or until the onions and garlic are translucent.
2. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp dried coriander, 1 tbsp garam masala and stir until all the vegetables are coated in the spices. Cook for 1 more minute, stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.
3. Add the cauliflower, stirring so it is incorporated with the rest of the mixture. Then add 100mL of the stock. This will help the cauliflower soften, rather than fry. Add the rest of the salt and garam masala. Stir and let it cook for 5 minutes.
4. Add the rest of the stock, stir and bring the soup to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes. Taste and if necessary, add additional salt to suit your palate.
5. Stir the soup, reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Take the soup off the heat and blend with an immersion blender until it is completely smooth.
Seriously though. I know people get touchy about this subject, but let’s all be grown ups and have some real talk about the importance of regular bowel movements. A lecturer recently mentioned that the optimum number is three – once after every meal! Ideally, you […]
Anxiety seems to be a growing problem these days, especially amongst young people. Various pressures – societal, economic, physical, technological, emotional, political – mean that people are being pulled in many directions, increasing their day to day anxiety and decreasing their ability to cope.
When you add in increased alcohol intake too, it’s wonder that anxiety is one of the fastest growing self-help categories.
The good news, is that there are foods you can eat that can help ease anxiety.
First a bit of science: serotonin (the happy hormone) is synthesised from an essential amino acid called tryptophan, which cannot be synthesised in the body. Eating foods abundant in tryptophan throughout the day can naturally help increase / balance serotonin levels and can have a positive effect on your mood and anxiety levels.
So what foods are high in tryptophan? With all of these foods, go organic and free-range wherever possible.
Almonds: A personal favourite, you can get the benefits through whole almonds, ground almonds, almond butter or almond milk. Buy organic and local wherever possible, as almonds are notoriously resource heavy during farming. Also, when you’re using almond milk, read the ingredients to make sure you’re not buying one with loads of fillers like carrageenan, oils and sugars. I like Plenish or Rude Health Ultimate Almond.
Poultry: Poultry is generally high in tryptophan, however the winner in this category is turkey, which has the highest amount. This explains that happy feeling after feasting on turkey during Christmas dinner, right?
Avocado: This wonder fruit (or is a vegetable?) is also high in B vitamins, which help convert tryptophan to serotonin.
Salmon: The ideal choice is wild Alaskan salmon (which is also high in vitamin D!) to avoid the antibiotics and growth hormones in farmed fish. It’s very important not to go overboard with fish (my recommendation is 2 x weekly, maximum) as its goodness must be balanced with the realities of what fish are absorbing from 0ur very polluted water.
Organic, free-range dairy products: They are also a good source of healthy fats and B vitamins.
Pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds: These seeds are also high in B vitamins and zinc.
Green tea and matcha: A new favourite of mine, they are both high in l-theanine, a calming amino acid that helps reduce stress.
To get more bang for your buck, eat these foods with a carbohydrate food (i.e. fruit and veg, gluten free grains like oatmeal, buckwheat or quinoa), as they will improve absorption of tryptophan.
Other ways to manage anxiety
Vitamin D: Make sure to get enough vitamin D, either from the sun or a supplement during the winter. If you’re not sure what your vitamin D levels are, you can get tested for £25 from http://www.vitamindtest.org.uk
Deep breathing: Taking a long deep breath, in for three breaths through your nose and out for three breaths through your mouth is a brilliant way to shift your nervous system out of sympathetic (fight or flight) mode, back to the calming parasympathetic rest and digest mode.
Aside from their significance as a major plot point in the Harrison Ford – Rachel McAdams film, Morning Glory, frittatas are one of those recipes that everyone seems to have their own little twist on. And why not? Their versatility means that even the newest […]
So it’s that time of the year again. Resolution time. Do you make resolutions? As a student nutritionist, I often hear people making resolutions to ‘do better’ with food, to eat healthier, to ‘be good’. These resolutions often come with a huge side of guilt. […]
At this time of the year, newspapers and magazines are filled with weight loss, fitness and detox stories. And I’ll admit, I do enjoy reading them and seeing what nutrition & exercise (mis)information is being passed around.
One of my biggest gripes is seeing articles that talk about needing to detox post Christmas, with claims that a 3, 5, 7, 10 (you choose a number of days!) day detox will cure everything that ails you.
The biological reality is that your body is constantly detoxifying itself – that’s what your liver, kidneys, bowels, lungs and skin are for. And the by-products of this perpetual detoxification are stool, urine and sweat (really! they’re not just annoyances!).
The liver is the body’s waste purification plant and it is perpetually in motion, 24 hours a day. The more toxins you put in, the harder the liver has to work to remove them. By toxins, I mean products and by-products of the digestive system (excess sugar, trans-fatty acids and gut dysbiosis), alcohol, smoking by-products, environmental toxins (lead, chlorine, fluorine, insecticides, herbicides, solvents, metals, mould, pollen, algae) and oxidative stress (free radicals).
Your body really doesn’t want toxins to build up. So much so that the liver has a two stage detoxification process to make sure all the waste is removed – anything from alcohol to heavy metals to pesticides to the by-products of medication to hormones like xenoestrogens. The liver is continuously converting these substances to inactive forms for excretion in urine (via the kidneys) or stool.
How do you know whether your body’s detoxification functions are working correctly? Here are some signs and symptoms are suboptimal detoxification:
If your bowels aren’t functioning well, you’re likely to have bloating, fatty stools, constipation, diarrhoea, an intolerance to fatty foods and bad breath.
If your immune system isn’t functioning well, you’re likely to have food allergies, skin issues like eczema and psoriasis, recurring infections and potentially asthma.
If your endocrine system (hormones) isn’t functioning well, you’re like to suffer from high stress, infertility, PMS, mood swings, anxiety and potentially depression.
If your nervous system isn’t functioning well, you’re likely to have headaches, poor sleep, lethargy and poor memory and concentration.
So knowing all this, the real question (which is less of a quick fix and not as sexy a ‘detox’): how can I consistently support my liver, lungs, skin, digestive system, bowels and kidneys?
- Drink lots of water throughout the day. Most people are slightly dehydrated and often mistake thirst for hunger, so the bare minimum to aim for is 1.5L of water across the day.
- Eat green leafy vegetables. These contain the micronutrients and enzymes that support the first stage of liver detoxification and kickstart the second stage.
- Eat more nuts and seeds. Seeds like pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and nuts like almonds, cashews, Brazils and hazelnuts have micronutrients that help your liver work better.
- Eat enough protein. Red meat, nuts, eggs and fish are amongst some of the protein sources that contain the amino acids needed for the second stage of liver detoxification.
- Don’t drink alcohol every day. Metabolising alcohol puts pressure on the liver and diverts it from its other important functions, such as bile secretion, which is helps the body digest fats.
- Support your gut. A good balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut supports your immune and digestive systems and helps improve the quality of your skin.
- Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Sleep is when your body has a chance to repair and regenerate and this supports its detoxification systems.
- Get sweaty at least 3 times a week. A good excuse for a run, a spin class or a shag!