This one diet change will lessen your anxiety, Kimberly Snyder says

When that oh-so-familiar (and sometimes debilitating) anxious feeling rises up in your gut, you might reach for your go-to essential oils, get down on the floor for a calming yoga pose, or meet up with a friend for a heart-to-heart. But to prevent anxiety from happening altogether, celeb nutritionist, Ayurveda expert, and Well+Good Council member Kimberly Snyder recommends this one simple food tweak.

You don’t need me to drill home that we live in an increasingly stressful world. And yes, by now you’re probably familiar with the whole discussion about stress hormones and that for many of us, our adrenals are constantly overtaxed, even though we don’t live in the time of having to run from saber toothed tigers anymore. Yup, got it.

But I would contend that it’s not so much the actual life situations themselves that build up anxiety so much as our reaction to them. Sure, traffic sucks, but we can either take a big breath and deal—or get worked up into a red-faced frenzy. When practiced regularly, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, as well as other centering techniques, can help us keep calm and quell our nervous fears.

From a dietary standpoint, the way to reduce anxiety is: Eat more carbs and less protein. (Gasp!)

So as I see it, it’s about cultivating a set of tools and strategies that put us in the best possible position to deal with life so anxiety doesn’t overwhelm us. Strategically choosing foods to eat—and not eat—can be very helpful in this regard. Foods have a profound effect on our moods, energy, and general mindset.

There is one simple principle I want to share with you that, from a dietary standpoint, can help you reduce anxiety. It’s this: Eat more carbs and less protein. (Gasp!) Yes, I know. It’s counter to a lot of what you hear in snippets plucked from morning shows, at the gym, from your friends and so on. But hear me out.

When it comes to the ratio of carbs to protein in your diet, a lot of the attention has to do with weight loss—which is not all it’s cracked up to be (but we’ll talk about that topic another day). The focus of today’s topic is anxiety—so let’s talk about it from that perspective.

Keep reading for 3 tips on creating a diet that’s super-nutritious for your body and your brain.

Foods that ease anxiety Kimberly Snyder
Photo: Unsplash/Freddie Marriage

1. Embrace (certain types of) carbs

Carbohydrates provide energy for your muscles, brain, and central nervous system. In fact, the human brain depends exclusively on carbohydrates for its energy. If you feel you are in a brain fog or easily become straight-up bitchy or overanxious, then it might just be because you aren’t eating the right kinds of carbs.

Research has found that eating carbohydrates increases serotonin release, which not only helps regulate your appetite, but also aids in elevating your mood and helps you feel balanced, in the blissful anti-anxiety state. If you drastically cut all carbs from your diet you can start to be super grumpy, and extremely reactive.

If you drastically cut all carbs from your diet you can start to be super grumpy, and extremely reactive.

The ancient systems of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine both recommend carbohydrate consumption for nourishment by way of root vegetables, whole grains, and seasonal fruit for health, longevity, and—here’s that word again—balance.

According to Ayurveda, a high-protein diet without enough whole carbohydrates will create a “doshic” imbalance and increase pitta (one of the three energy signatures, or doshas, in Ayurveda—you can find out which is dominant in you by taking this quiz). A pitta imbalance can manifest in “excess fire,” which is most definitely anxiety-inducing.

So please do incorporate whole, unrefined carbs such as sweet potatoes; gluten-free grains such as millet, quinoa (okay, technically it’s a seed but often referred to as a grain); brown rice; and whole fruit. And take a deep breath as you do.

Continue reading This one diet change will lessen your anxiety, Kimberly Snyder says →

5 super easy ways to feel put-together while traveling, according to one badass career expert

Not all healthy travel ends with you swapping your leggings for a dreamy beach cover-up or flattering black bathing suit. Sometimes, the final destination is a boardroom instead of a wellness retreat. So what’s the key to looking like a total #bosslady when you have to go straight from the airport to the office? Career expert Claire Wasserman has some (really good) ideas. FYI when she’s not sharing her genius advice as a Well+Good Council member, she’s helping women advocate for equality in the workplace as the founder of Ladies Get Paid, a crusade that has her crisscrossing the country most of the year. Here are her foolproof hacks to feel confident and collected—even when things get chaotic in transit. 

When I’m on the road, it’s like being a rock star on tour where you just play shows and then there’s a week or two-week break and then you’re on the road again. There was a time when I was on a plane six days in a row—at one point it was every single week.

I’ve been going across the country hosting town halls for women to come and talk about what we call “Women and Money.” (It’s really more of a conversation around what money represents in terms of self-worth.) I’m in cities sometimes only for 24 hours, maybe two days—often, I’m heading straight from the airport to an event, and I have to get ready, like half in the taxi and half in a bar bathroom. It can be intense.

I choose to be present instead of perfect.

My goals in walking into any work situation are to be incredibly present and to try and enjoy it. By making it about absorbing the moment, that ends up radiating. There’s a mindset and an energy that you bring and then there’s what you actually look like. I choose to be present instead of perfect. If had this pressure on myself to look a certain way, then how am I going to deal when things don’t go to plan—which is bound to happen when traveling? I would just fall apart.

For example, I used to be obsessed with having this beautiful pageant hair. But…I’m just not gonna have it. My hair’s kind of frizzy—it is what it is. I’m gonna look messy, and so I’ve figured out how to put my hair up in a messy way that doesn’t look totally insane. Through trial and error, I figured out what works for me.

Here are a handful of travel and beauty hacks I know I can always count on to make me feel calm, cool, and collected on the road.  Continue reading 5 super easy ways to feel put-together while traveling, according to one badass career expert →

Could tobacco actually be good for you? Here’s why this energy healer thinks so

Acupuncturist Jill Blakeway, DACM, is down to do just about anything in the name of energy healing: Sit in a hot hut for a Native American purification ceremony? No, er, sweat. Travel to Greece to perform acupuncture on a high-profile (read: royal) client? Not a problem. And here, the Well+Good Council member put the unlikeliest plant to the test to look for possible healing powers: tobacco.  

At this point, is there a person on earth who doesn’t know that tobacco is public health enemy number one? As an ex-smoker with a particularly strong aversion to the smell of smoke, I’ll admit I was highly skeptical when I first heard about the potential healing properties of the herb to reorganize your energy field earlier this summer.

But despite my reservations, I eventually found myself in a small treatment room in New York City partaking in a traditional tobacco ceremony—all in the name of research. (I’m in the middle of writing a book about energy medicine.)

In the shamanic tradition, each medicinal plant has a specific energy, and tobacco is considered powerful, protective, and somewhat masculine.

I’d sought out a tobaquero, or tobacco shaman, and found Marcelo Sturgeon, who hails from Argentina. He’s studied Amazonian plant medicine for the last 15 years and has watched as Westerners have flocked to the rainforest in search of potent healing plants, like ayahuasca.

Sturgeon’s specialty is the use of tobacco. In the shamanic tradition, each medicinal plant has a specific energy, and tobacco is considered powerful, protective, and somewhat masculine. However, using it to heal someone requires experience, Sturgeon says. In the wrong hands, it can invoke negative, harmful energies. No wonder so many people struggle with cigarettes!

Here’s why I decided to try a tobacco healing ceremony—plus, what I discovered during the experience. Continue reading Could tobacco actually be good for you? Here’s why this energy healer thinks so →

What I learned about mindfulness by living with Japanese Buddhist monks for a week

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to have a sleepover at a sacred mountaintop temple? Well, rockstar healthy chef Candice Kumai decided to find out after embarking on a wellness journey to Japan to reconnect with her roots. Here’s what happened when the California native and Well+Good Council member made a pilgrimage to one of the holiest sites in Buddhism for a week of meditation, mindfulness—and, of course, food.  

Last summer, after my sweet, 95-year-old Japanese baachan (grandma) passed away, I flew to Japan for her first Obon, a tradition in which we celebrate our ancestors. It felt like a powerful moment in time to embrace my heritage (my mom is Japanese and my dad is Polish-American) and fully immerse myself in Japanese wellness—all with my beloved sister, Jenni. And what better place to do all of that than Koyasan?

A 90-minute drive south of Osaka, Koyasan is considered the most blessed place in mainland Japan for Shingon Buddhist monks, and one of the most sacred mountains in the world. It’s totally untouched (UNESCO added it to its list of World Heritage sites in 2004), and about half of the 117 temples let guests reserve a stay. That means that for several days, you can rest, eat, and pray with the monks.

At 6 a.m. every day, we woke and got ready for an early morning prayer session with the temple’s monks.

It’s definitely a journey. From Tokyo, Jenni and I had to take a subway, a train, a taxi, and a cable car to get there, but the second we walked into the crisp mountain air, my spirit began to awaken.

At 6 a.m. every day, we woke and got ready for an early morning prayer session with the temple’s monks. We chanted and shared prayers with guests who had come from all over the world. My sister and I prayed for our baachan’s soul, which felt really memorable and powerful.

Photo: Instagram/@candicekumai

While at the temple, we ate traditional Japanese buddhist “shōjin ryōri,” a practice of cooking known as devotional cuisine. It entailed a lot of really well-seasoned (think umami, sweet, and savory) and well-proportioned vegan meals for breakfast and dinner. (At our particular temple, there is the option of requesting lunch if you’d like). No food is wasted in the process of cooking, which adds another layer of mindfulness to everything.

Each meal was served with gohan (hot steamed white rice), miso soup, and hojicha (roasted green tea), and it all felt really warming. My sister and I started every meal by saying itadakimasu, which is a way of expressing gratitude for the meal. It was, hands down, some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.

It was, hands down, some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.

Though we got up early to pray, the schedule wasn’t strict, and we had time to visit the many gorgeous temples, landmarks, and sacred places in Koyasan. My sister and I each found our preferred meditation spots. She liked the beautiful Japanese garden that was part of our room, while I preferred to situate myself on the steps of one of the local temples.

I caught some monks ordering mochi—the traditional sweet rice and adzuki bean treat—at my favorite spot in town, and I just loved what that said to me about balance. So often, it’s really about slowing down and appreciating what we have.

Photo: Jenni Kumai Gwiazdowski

The magic of Koyasan is that every person is able to get something different out of it. Some guests tap into a new and profound love for prayer and meditation. Others find it’s a chance to reconnect with themselves and to feel more alive.

My sister found the incredible history and culture to be the best parts, as well as the chill factor—the chance to just slow down and breathe. For me, the experience was such a powerful reminder to live more simply and to honor my roots and my family heritage, including my wonderful grandma.

Besides having serious wellness cred, Candice Kumai is a classically trained chef, regular contributor on E! News and The Dr. Oz Show, and has served as a judge on Iron Chef America and Beat Bobby FlayShe’s currently writing her sixth book on Japanese wellness, Kintsugi Wellness, which drops spring 2018. 

What should Candice write about next? Send your questions and suggestions to experts@wellandgood.com