Managing Anxiety with Breakfast

How your breakfast food choices can help you stay calm through the day. 

There’s no doubt we are living in anxiety-inducing times, so it’s understandable that more people than ever are struggling with high levels of anxiety. Luckily, from a nutrition perspective, there is actually a lot we can do to tackle some of the root causes of anxiety so that we feel calmer and more in control.

Eating in a way that maintains stable blood sugar levels is absolutely crucial in using your diet to help manage anxiety is to eat in a way that keeps your blood sugar levels stable. Unstable blood sugar levels are a huge driver of anxiety, and sudden drops in blood sugar can even trigger panic attacks.

Your breakfast choices set the tone for the day. Here’s why.

If you start your day with a high sugar breakfast composed mainly of refined carbohydrates, like jam on white toast, a commercial breakfast cereal or a croissant, sugar will be released into your system really quickly, causing a fast rise in your blood sugar levels, as there is very little fibre or protein in these breakfasts to slow digestion down.

This fast rise in blood sugar means that your pancreas has to quickly produce insulin to deal with all the sugar that’s quickly entered your system. Following this insulin release, and the sugar being carried off to your cells, your blood sugar levels will fall again rapidly.

A sugary breakfast triggers the release of stress hormones. 

The problem is, any time we have a sudden drop in our blood sugar like this, it triggers the body to release anxiety inducing stress hormones like norepinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol, as these hormones help the liver to release glucose into your blood stream to temporarily raise your low blood sugar levels. The reason your body will do this is because it needs to keep blood sugar levels within a certain healthy range to ensure your brain, a heavily glucose dependent organ, is able to still function.

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Dr Katie Dalrymple’s choppy blood sugar chart after eating Porridge with Honey & Berries.

This experience of your blood sugar quickly dropping too low and stress hormones being released makes you feel shaky, tired, sweaty, jittery, anxious, nervous, irritable and “hangry” (hungry and angry). And, if you drink a coffee with any of these breakfasts it will only exacerbate these feelings because the caffeine it contains triggers the release of even more stress hormones.

Ultimately, when you continually eat in a way that causes these dramatic spikes and falls in blood sugar levels, you put yourself on a blood sugar rollercoaster, cause stress to your body and seriously destabilise your mood.

Even a healthy breakfast option – Soaked Oats with Honey, Yoghurt & Berries – causes a noticable blood sugar spike, and stressful crash later.

When you start your day with a breakfast that includes a mixture of fibre, healthy fat and protein, your meal will be digested more slowly and any sugars in the meal will be released more steadily into your system, meaning blood sugar levels will stay more stable and the stress response will not be activated by the food you’ve just eaten.

We conducted a small scale experiment with one (yes – we know!) participant – Dr Katie Dalrymple, an expert nutritionist who advised FOGA on the development of Oatshakes. Her blood sugar spiked noticeably after a breakfast of Soaked Oats with Honey, Yoghurt & Berries, and again after the Toast & Jam she craved mid-morning when her blood sugar came back down!

Over the following days, Dr. Dalrymple had an Oatshake for breakfast. You can see the smooth, steady curve that she describes as “literally, an amazing morning sugar profile”. 

Dr Katie Dalrymple’s smooth blood sugar chart after drinking an oatshake for breakfast.

This smooth blood sugar profile makes FOGA’s oatshakes a great choice for a calming start to the day. They contain a blend of fibre from oats, pea protein, healthy fats from nuts and seeds and a handful of organic berries, naturally low in sugar, to help balance your blood sugar levels and keep you full for longer. Oats are also high in tryptophan, an amino acid the brain converts into serotonin, (low serotonin Is a driver of anxiety) and magnesium and B-complex vitamins, which are important nutrients for reducing anxiety.

Breakfast Oatshakes


Important Notice

Whilst this article was prepared by an expert nutritionist, it should not be taken as medical advice. If you are suffering with anxiety, please reach out for help personalised to you. The charity Mind has some great resources.

Similarly, whilst this article highlights investigations into blood sugar impact of FOGA products, these investigations were taken by a healthy individual and a small sample size.

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