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Can I Eat To Beat Anxiety And Depression?

 Can I eat to beat anxiety and depression?

This is a common question many of you must be having. There are a lot of things that happen in each of our lives which, directly or indirectly leads to Anxiety / Depression. Among all the strategies out there to safeguard mental health, eating the right foods still ranks first.

The most important dietary change one should do is plan out the meals around whole foods, lowering or eliminating the number of processed foods including, simple sugars and unhealthy snacks. Also, avoid binging on your go-to comfort foods which only leaves you with guilt and enjoy more nutritious superfoods with mood-boosting properties. 

Some of the best options for mood-boosting are:

1. Green Leafy Vegetables:

Leafy greens, such as spinach could help people with anxiety feel calmer. The magnesium is the key, which plays an important role in feeling calm. Many researchers have shown a causal relationship between magnesium and anxiety/depression.

Also, green leafy contains a good amount of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin K, Minerals and phytochemicals. Leafy greens fight against all kinds of inflammation and according to researches, severe depression has been linked with brain inflammation.

2. Probiotics:

Probiotics have become increasingly popular in recent years. These bacteria are known for promoting digestive health and can have impact on mental health symptoms such as anxiety/depression

There are researches linking gut health with good mental health. The microorganisms living in your gut, including probiotics, can play a key role in mood regulation by helping to reduce inflammation in your body, produce feel-good neurotransmitters that can affect appetite, mood, or sleep.

It also reduces inflammation in the body which can contribute to depression.

3. Seeds:

Flax seeds, Pumpkin seeds and Chia seeds are an excellent addition to your diet if you struggle with anxiety/depression. Seeds are a good source of Omega-3-fatty acids.

1 Tablespoon of Chia seeds provides approximately 61% of the daily recommended amount of Omega-3-fatty acids and flaxseed provides roughly 39% of the daily recommendation.

Pumpkin seeds are a great way to increase tryptophan that helps to create serotonin (the hormone that stabilizes the mood).

4. Nuts:

Nuts such as Cashew nuts, Brazil nuts and Hazelnut are one of the richest plant sources of Omega-3-fatty acids. Walnuts seem to be the winner in this category. Walnuts are known to support overall brain health, being one of the highest plant sources of Omega-3-fatty acid and a great source of protein to help keep blood sugar levels at a healthy balance.

There are studies that found that adults who ate nuts, and specifically walnuts, were more likely to have higher levels of optimism, energy, hope, concentration and greater interest in activities.

5. Dark Chocolate:

Most exciting of foods with anxiety/depression reducing properties is chocolate! Especially dark chocolate because it has less added sugar. It can improve mood and reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to anxiety/depression.

Chocolate has high tryptophan content, which the body uses to turn into mood-enhancing neurotransmitters, such as serotonin in the brain. When choosing dark chocolate, aim for 70 percent or more. Dark chocolate still contains added sugar and fats, so a small serving 1 to 3 grams is appropriate.

6. Chamomile:

After a long day, who doesn't love a cup of tea? Spring for a Chamomile Tea: A clinical trial, suggests that people who drank this tea over a long period have significantly reduced severe anxiety/depression.

Chamomile's role in the reduction of anxiety/depression may have something to do with its ability to enhance your efforts to get to sleep on time.

7. Avocado:

This nutrient-packed fruit is filled with Vitamin B6 and magnesium, a combo that helps in serotonin production in your brain.

Adding avocado slices in omelette, salads and even smoothies will also help you get more fiber and healthy fats in your diet.

8. Berries:

Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries and Blackberries are some of the highest antioxidant foods available. Try to add variety for the breakfast in the morning.

Several studies have observed that after two years of treatment with antioxidants, people with anxiety/depression had significantly lower depression scores. 

9. Tomatoes:

Tomatoes contain lots of folic acid and alpha-lipoic acid, both of which are good for fighting depression. Many studies show an elevated incidence of folate deficiency in people with anxiety/depression.

Folic acid prevents an excess of homocysteine - which restricts the production of important neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. It helps the body convert glucose into energy and therefore stabilizes mood.

10. Beans:

Beans are good for the heart. The more you eat, the more you smile. They can act as anti-diabetes and weight-loss foods.

They are good for mood because the body digests them slowly and that helps to stabilize the blood sugar levels. Also, they help to decrease the cravings for bread and other processed food.

Bottom Line:

Incorporating these foods into a balanced diet can positively improve mood and help lessen anxiety. Reducing foods that are high in added sugar, salt, and fats especially trans fats can also aid in reducing the symptoms of anxiety/depression.

For further reading

  1. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2091919
  2. https://www.gastrojournal.org/article/S0016-5085(17)35557-9/fulltext
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27912875/
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232044373_Impact_of_Antioxidant_Therapy_on_Symptoms_of_Anxiety_and_Depression_A_Randomized_Controlled_Trial_in_Patients_with_Peripheral_Arterial_Disease
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1810582/

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anuja Dani

 Anuja Dani, Certified Sports Nutritionist

Founder, Harmony Wellness,
M.S.c. Nutrition & Dietetics
Diabetes Educator
@the_harmony_wellness (Instagram) 
As a nutritionist, her motto is to simplify food and nutrition to busy people and helping them to achieve their goals. She has successfully counselled clients all over India for disease management, nutritional deficiencies and also gives fitness advice to athletes, fitness enthusiasts, bodybuilders, marathoners & many others. Other than being a nutritionist, Anuja is also a good singer, a foodie, a reader, a designer, and a dreamer. 

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