You know the feeling — a racing heart, jittery hands, pressure in your chest, and a knot in your stomach. That’s anxiety. As the Anxiety and Depression Association of America states: “anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older.”
While many suffer in silence, others turn to therapeutic treatment or even prescription medication. Xanax, an anxiety medication in the benzodiazepine family, can work miracles for those with serious anxiety issues. With that said, these drugs can also have side effects such as severe drowsiness and fatigue, constipation, and continual use may lead to addiction.
Are there any other options?
Anxiety sufferers looking for alternative methods to reduce symptoms may want to look at changing certain lifestyle habits. From your social and work life, to exercise, to diet, your habits play an integral role in the way you feel. With that said, when making any lifestyle changes, especially in the case of diet, it’s important to consult a professional nutritionist or doctor beforehand.
A great place to start is with your diet. Food is not the cause of anxiety disorders, yet certain foods can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety. Coffee and refined sugars stimulate the body, and thus amplify jitteriness, while acidic foods have been shown to drop magnesium levels, which has been directly linked to higher levels of anxiety. One of the most inconspicuous culprits is dairy. Yes, unfortunately, that delicious cheese plate from dinner the night before may be why your anxiety is worse the next morning.
In excess, dairy has been shown to heighten adrenaline levels, deplete magnesium stores, and mess with the body’s production of estrogen. Why is a natural product causing such unnatural side effects? It all comes down to the source of the milk — the cow. Dairy cows are given artificial hormones, antibiotics, and GMO (genetically modified) feed, which help increase milk production, lower the risk of disease and sickness in the cow, and ultimately save money for the dairy farmer. When you drink cow’s milk, your body is ingesting these harmful agents, which can cause an uptick in anxiety symptoms.
It’s not easy to eliminate dairy from your diet. While the connection between addiction and dairy is not as strong as sugar or alcohol, it still exists and is just as difficult to overcome.
Neal Barnard, M.D., F.A.C.C., president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and founder of the Barnard Medical Center, explains that one of the main ingredients in dairy is casein, which has “opiate molecules built in.” Barnard refers to casein as “dairy crack.”
The key to kicking a dairy addiction is implementation, preparation, and self-compassion. Implement a slow rollout plan that incorporates plant-based dairy substitutes, allows for indulgences, and relies on readjusting your lifestyle for preparedness.
If you’re a dairy addict, plan ahead by trying out dairy alternatives. Use these recipes from the Food Monster App to get started.
Almond milk is made by soaking, crushing, and straining almond nuts. This alternative is regularly hailed as one of the superior options due to a light, sweet flavor, as well as the fact that it has 50 percent fewer calories than cow’s milk. With that said, per Jo-Ann Joy, a registered dietitian at American University, almond milk does not provide the nutritional benefits of the almond nut, such as protein, as well as good fats and calcium that are provided in cow’s milk.
For those switching from a whole-milk diet, coconut milk is one of the best transition options. Coconut milk is the combination of coconut water and pressed coconut meat, both of which are produced naturally within a coconut. Coconut has higher saturated fat and oil content, therefore is a great substitute for whole-milk and is complimentary for baking.
Use coconut milk to bake a Raw Chocolate Banana Pie With Whipped Coconut Cream or make these Raw Fruit Popsicles. The fat and oil content also adds a delightfully creamy texture to modern-recipes-gone-vegan such as Mashed Cauliflower Green Bean Casserole or even this Hoagie With Raspberry Sofrito And Chipotle-Coconut Dressing.
Cashew milk is the leading competitor of almond milk. They are both made the same way, through soaking, pressing, and straining. They offer and lack the same nutritional benefits. They are both satisfyingly light. With that said, unsweetened cashew milk is generally slightly lower in calories, has a less nutty bite, and adds a sweeter flavor.
One of the newer alternatives on the market, oat milk is made from soaked oat groats. It offers a mild taste that makes a great additive to coffee and tea or even cereal. For those already on the alternative milk band-wagon, it’s complementary to rice or soy milk. A positive benefit of oat milk is its iron level. Iron is an incredibly essential mineral that many vegetarians and vegans lack as it resides mainly in meat products. Oat milk offers 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance of iron and is a complementary addition to a meat-free diet.
As the name suggests, soy milk is made from soybeans and filtered water. Unlike other alternatives, soy milk offers the benefits of fortified calcium and more protein. With that said, excessive soy intake may cause issues for people with certain conditions such as thyroid disease. Therefore, it’s recommended to avoid a soy milk exclusive diet.
As one of the best cooking substitutes, try using soy milk in these non-dairy recipes: Chicken-Less Pot Pie Soup, Pine Nut and Broccoli Cream Reginette With Grilled Peppers, Broccoli ‘Cheese’ Pasta Bake, and Creamy Soy Milk Ramen.
While most plant-based dairy alternatives are free of cholesterol, lactose, dairy, and gluten, and are naturally low in saturated fats, they also lack protein and calcium. Therefore, it’s important to create a balanced diet that incorporates what dairy alternatives lack.
There are a handful of dairy-free brands that can be found at your local grocery store. A few of these include Daiya, So Delicious, Silk, and KateFarms. With that said, it’s best to have a few dairy-free recipes on hand that are tasty as well as nutritious.
Prepare for your week by experimenting with a few cheese alternative meals such as Roasted Vegetable Tacos with Spicy Cashew Cheese, a vegetable and fatty acid-rich treat, or this Pumpkin, Arugula, and Goat Cheese Gnocchi, a recipe that packs a punch with various antioxidant benefits, a boost of iron, and plenty of fiber.
Try integrating a few additional non-dairy recipes into your weekly routine such as Chickpea Paprikash: Hungarian Chickpeas in Paprika Roux, Homemade Sesame Milk Latte, Romania Vegetable Pilaf, Extra Crispy Rice Paper Bacon, Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats, or Wild Mushroom and Kale Lasagne Rolls.
The Food Monster App offers over 10,000 vegetarian and vegan recipes that can help you redesign a dairy-free pantry, rid your home of temptation, and create a balanced nutritional regime. It is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook.
Lead image source: Non-Dairy Milks