Healthy Eating Habits in Social Anxiety Disorder

Super foods may help you beat anxiety.
Eat healthy foods to combat anxiety. Lew Robertson / Getty Images

Healthy eating habits can mean the difference between a day filled with jitters and a day of calm and peace. Below are nine tips for healthy eating to help those with social anxiety disorder (SAD) improve overall wellness, and reduce feelings of anxiety on a daily basis.

Eating Better to Reduce Anxiety

  1. Eat small, regular meals. When you skip meals, your blood sugar levels drop and you may feel irritable, jittery, and have worsened anxiety. Aim to eat 5 to 6 smaller meals and snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels from plummeting.
  2. Eat whole grains/good carbohydrates. Replace processed grains (such as white bread and pasta) and simple carbohydrates (such as fruit juices) with complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, whole wheat pasta, beans, broccoli, and cabbage take more time for the body to process than simple carbohydrates like sugar, and will lead to fewer ups and downs in serotonin levels in the brain, and may help you feel calmer.
  3. Avoid refined sugar. Refined sugar, found in sweets, soda pop, and other foods, can affect your body's metabolism and deplete certain vitamins and minerals. Stay away from obvious sugar sources as well as hidden sugar in packaged and canned foods.
  4. Drink herbal tea instead of coffee. Caffeine can cause an effect similar to the stress response involved in anxiety, so it's best when avoided. Caffeine can be found in coffee, tea, soda pop, chocolate, and some medications. Try alternatives such as herbal tea instead of coffee; although it may be hard to give up caffeine at first, in the long run, you'll feel better.
  5. Limit alcohol. Alcohol can aggravate feelings of depression (which often coincide with social anxiety) and is best avoided or limited.
  6. Take a multi-vitamin. Ensure that you receive adequate daily vitamins and minerals by supplementing your diet with a multi-vitamin. Magnesium is a particularly important mineral and can also be found in foods such as nuts (e.g., almonds and cashews), soybeans, and spinach.
  7. Watch artificial sweetener consumption. Although it might be tempting to use artificial sweeteners in place of refined sugars, be sure that consumption of these products is not aggravating your social anxiety. If you find yourself feeling particularly anxious after consuming an artificial sweetener, it might be wise to avoid that product.
  8. Include omega-3 fatty acids. Increase the consumption of omega-3 fatty acids by eating nuts, seeds, and cold water fish.
  9. Drink water. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Dehydration can lead to lower energy levels which can worsen anxiety.

In addition to the above tips, remember to introduce any changes to your diet in a gradual fashion; otherwise, you might find that you quickly return to your old habits. Also be sure to avoid any foods that are known allergens for you, particularly those that worsen your anxiety.

Making changes such as those above will help you not only gain control of social anxiety but also improve your general health. Consult with your physician and/or a dietitian for specialized recommendations for you, and your particular situation.

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