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Anxiety is on the rise in South Africa, posing a significant public health challenge. However, there’s a silver lining: emerging research indicates that diet and nutrition can play a crucial role in managing anxiety levels. This article delves into the compelling connection between what we eat and how we feel.

Enhancing Mood and Well-Being through Nutrient-Rich Foods 

Starting the day with foods rich in tryptophan like eggs, turkey, tofu, legumes, salmon, nuts, seeds, cheese, and milk can help promote feelings of calm and satisfaction. These foods provide a steady supply of serotonin, the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Aim for at least three servings of omega-3 rich fatty fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, or mackerel each week. Omega-3s support optimal brain health and function. 

Balancing Blood Sugar for Stable Mood and Energy 

Eating small, frequent meals at regular intervals throughout the day helps maintain steady blood sugar levels. This stabilises mood, energy, and focus while preventing dips that can lead to irritability. Choose minimally processed, low glycaemic index carbs like whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables at each meal. Avoid added sugars which cause rapid spikes and crashes in blood glucose. 

Hydration, Caffeine, and Alcohol: Impact on Mood and Health 

Staying hydrated is also key. Sip water regularly to prevent dehydration, dry mouth, and headaches which negatively impact mood. Limit caffeine to no more than 400mg daily as it can increase anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness in sensitive individuals. Similarly, heavy alcohol consumption can disrupt sleep, metabolism, medication effectiveness and mood stability. 

Exploring the Gut-Brain Connection for Optimal Mood and Brain Health 

An exciting new area of research is the gut-brain connection. The trillions of microbes in the intestinal tract, known as the gut microbiota, closely interact with the brain. Eating a diet rich in fermentable fibres from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes as well as probiotic foods like yoghurt, kefir, kimchi and kombucha helps support a healthy, diverse gut microbiome. In turn, this may help prevent inflammation, enhance neurotransmitter synthesis, and stabilise mood. Optimisation of the gut-brain axis, also called psychobiotics, represents a promising new frontier in brain health. 

Disclaimer – Healthi and its associates offers health and fitness information and is designed for educational and entertainment purposes only. You should consult your physician or general practitioner before beginning a new fitness program. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, you should always consult with a physician, general practitioner, or other qualified healthcare professional. Do not disregard, avoid or delay obtaining medical or health related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have read in our publications or lectures. The use of information provided though the Healthi service is solely at your own risk and is not medical or healthcare advice. 


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