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Foods That Help Fight Depression and Anxiety

Updated on January 12, 2013
a balanced diet is key for good overall health
a balanced diet is key for good overall health | Source

Nutrition plays a huge role in both physical and mental heath. In fact, a part of my own recovery from mild depression was changing my diet.

For many years, food was a source of comfort. But really, all the comfort foods I reached for just ended up making my condition worse. So along with medication and therapy, I decided to improve my daily eating plan.

Making slow and steady changes to my diet helped me feel better, sleep better, and deal better with other aspects of my healing.

A Balance of Healthy Foods

First, I got back to basics, consulting the USDA food plate to give me a starting point. Just measuring my daily diet against the recommended one was an eye-opener.

I was having too much protein, not enough fruits and vegetables, and practically no dairy - totally out of balance. Starting to Include foods from all the categories gave me a solid foundation to build on.

Folate-rich foods: dark green leafy veggies like romaine lettuce and spinach, also asparagus and broccoli, and parsley.

Vitamin D : fatty fish like tuna and mackerel, egg yolks and swiss cheese, and beef liver

Omega 3's : fish and fish oil, flaxseed

Antioxidants like Beta-carotene and Vitamins C & E: eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each day

Zinc : red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, and oysters

Selenium : Brazil nuts, tuna, and fortified bread products

Foods That Can Have a Positive Effect on Mental Health

Certain nutrients have been found to improve aspects from lowering cholesterol to encouraging new cell growth to stress reduction. Here is a sampling...

Note: Consult your doctor to get more complete information about which nutrients and what amounts will be the most help for you.

Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit keeps blood sugar levels up during the afternoon.
Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit keeps blood sugar levels up during the afternoon. | Source
Healthy sources of protein work to build up strength in the body.
Healthy sources of protein work to build up strength in the body. | Source
Avoid processed sugars - choose fruit instead!
Avoid processed sugars - choose fruit instead! | Source

What Else Can Help?

Reduce Your Refined Sugar Consumption

I knew high amounts of sugar were a bad thing for my body, putting me at risk for obesity and diabetes and other health issues. But I had no clue about the potential harm I was doing to my brain. In fact, studies have revealed a probable connection between heart disease and depression.

Eliminating sugar completely seemed too overwhelming. So instead, I aimed for subbing fruit for for at least half of the refined sugar snack I was eating on a given day.

Take in Less Caffeine

As an adult, I became an avid coffee drinker. I liked the taste and the energy boost I got from it. However I eventually ended up in a vicious cycle of too much caffeine in my system leading to not enough sleep, then drinking more coffee to keep myself going.

Too much caffeine will interfere with deep sleep, which is vitally important for good mental and physical health. Start slow in cutting back, replacing some of your regular coffee for decaf and even trying herbal tea for a change.

Use cannellini beans as a satisfying meat substitute.
Use cannellini beans as a satisfying meat substitute. | Source

Lighten up Your Meals

I used to make lots of meals with red meat and heavy starches. But although we all need protein, there a lots of choices that offer the benefits without the extra fat or cholesterol. Fish beans, nuts, low-fat dairy, and even some vegetables can be good substitutes for meat.

Start Small

It's hard to instill a bunch of new habits when you're not feeling well. Do what you can, at a pace you can handle. And get some support as you begin - a good cheering section can give you encouragement and motivate you to keep going!

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    • Rose Anne Karesh profile image

      Rose Anne Karesh 5 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks for a great hub! I have recently found that cutting back on caffeinated diet soda has greatly decreased headaches, irritability and insomnia.

    • Heather63 profile image
      Author

      Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hey torrilynn! Good for you for making some healthy changes. Just remember to pace yourself, adjusting your diet bit-by-bit, so you don't feel overwhelmed physically or with meal planning. And I hope you feel a positive difference soon!

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 5 years ago

      thanks i've been trying to eat healthy so eating some of these fruits and using some of your advice should help greatly. voted up.

    • Heather63 profile image
      Author

      Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      epigramman - Hi and thanks for stopping by to read! I'm sorry that you've had those health issues to deal with. It seems that one major issue, like high blood pressure, can really sap your energy to deal with the rest of life. So I wish you all the best with making some changes and hope that the ideas you got here will get you going on the right track!!

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 5 years ago

      ...well I have blood pressure which seems to be under control but I suffer from anxiety and situational depression so the title naturally caught my eye and the content was beneficial, enlightening and will be used as a reference guide so thank you for your expertise, research and your ability to communicate the written word - so very well - sending you warm wishes and good energy from lake erie time ontario canada 10:45pm

    • Heather63 profile image
      Author

      Heather Adams 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Hi Carol - thanks for reading! I'm glad to hear you're making the move away from sugar. I know first-hand how addictive it can be - and how I end up more tired and sleepy when I have too much. It's kind of ironic, isn't it? Keep up the great work!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      Good hub and happy to say we pretty much avoid sugar and things with refined sugar. Thanks for sharing this information.

    • profile image

      bri36 6 years ago

      don't we all... but thats how we learn right? anyway keep cooking and writing about it thats what builds confident cooks.

    • Heather63 profile image
      Author

      Heather Adams 6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I learned the hard way, that's for sure.

    • profile image

      bri36 6 years ago

      I totally agree with you here! Food is what makes us and when we abuse it we are the ones to pay the price. Sounds to me you know what you are talking about.Yes I voted^

    • Heather63 profile image
      Author

      Heather Adams 6 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      Thank you for your comments and suggestion - I'll check the documentary out for sure. Yes, I found out the hard way how much food can effect a person!

    • catalystsnstars profile image

      catalystsnstars 6 years ago from Land of Nod

      Have you ever heard of the documentary "Food Matters"? It's right up the alley of what you're introducing here and it might help you as well. I like that you're touching on this subject though because We all must understand better that you really are what you eat.

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