Can what I eat affect how I feel? Nutrition Therapy to Manage Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety disorders in the United States are the most common mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. That’s 40 million adults or 18 percent of the population who struggle with anxiety and depression. What’s more, numerous studies show a strong correlation between obesity and mental health. Managing these symptoms through counseling and medication is often effective, however, eating better can also ease depression and anxiety.

Guidelines and Foods to Ease Anxiety and Depression

A balanced diet of whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables rather than processed foods and simple carbohydrates will help stabilized your blood sugar and balance your natural hormones. Eating scheduled meals and snacks – at least every four hours – can also help improve your mood and keep your blood sugar from dropping to low.

What about omega-3s? Found in salmon, mackerel and other fatty fish as well as walnuts and chia seeds, numerous studies show that omega-3s are helpful in fighting depression and anxiety. These specific omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are thought to have the most potential as a treatment option for both adults and children.

Some studies have shown that a deficit in the amino acid – tryptophan – has been linked to anxiety. Your body uses tryptophan to help make serotonin – sometimes referred to as the “happy chemical.” Foods highest in tryptophan include meat turkey, spinach, bananas, dates, oats and eggs.

A study on mice, showed diets low in magnesium were found to increase anxiety related behaviors. Eating magnesium-rich foods may help to ease irritability and depression. The best sources are dark green vegetables, legumes, cereals, wheat bread, fish and nuts.

It’s important to make the distinction between every day stress and anxiety and chronic severe depression, which is a recognizable medical condition. Even if your doctor recommends medication, it’s worth considering changes to your diet as an additional treatment therapy.

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