Anxiety and depression are all too common in modern society, and most of us are familiar with feelings of stress as we go about our daily lives. As we look for ways to feel calmer and more positive, can the foods we eat help? Diet and mood are related, and eating well can help to relieve the symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress.
Anxiety and Depression Are Related
There is a link between anxiety and depression. Both of these mental health issues are considered mood disorders, which means they affect the way a person feels inside. In the case of depression, the individual’s mood is flat. The depressed person describes themselves as feeling empty or hopeless when they are in an episode of depression.
A person who has an anxiety disorder experiences the kind of “fight or flight” sensation designed to keep us away from dangerous situations, but at times when there is no imminent threat. The person may experience the following symptoms:
- Difficulty Concentrating
- Dizziness Dry mouth
- Insomnia/Sleep Disturbances
- Rapid heartbeat
People who live with anxiety disorders may also feel depressed. In some cases, the anxiety disorder precedes an episode of depression. For other people, the symptoms of anxiety and depression overlap, since signs of depression can also include difficulty focusing and changes in sleep patterns.
Treating Anxiety, Depression, and Stress: Good Food
When a person is in the throes of depression or feeling anxious or under stress, it may be challenging for him or her to eat well. The individual may not feel like eating, or be drawn to foods that contain high amounts of sugar, salt, fat, or caffeine. While they may taste good or provide a temporary boost in blood sugar, they are not the best choices for people who want to get relief from the unpleasant symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress.
A diet that includes a variety of foods can be an effective part of a treatment plan to help those who are living with anxiety or depression. Since eating three substantial meals each day may seem overwhelming, a better choice is to eat smaller meals more often. This strategy helps to keep blood sugar levels at a more constant level.
Making a point of eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is part of a healthy eating plan. A diet that includes carbohydrates can help to regulate moods, since consuming them may help to increase the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the brain. Foods with a high level of fiber help to create a longer-lasting feeling of fullness, which may help the individual to stay away from salty or sugary snacks.
Some research suggests that improving your blood levels of Vitamin B12 and folate can also help to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. To get these important nutrients, choose lean cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Low-fat dairy products are another good source of Vitamin B12, while legumes, greens and orange juice add folate to the diet.
Eating well is not a “magic bullet’ cure for anxiety, depression, and stress, but it can be an effective part of a treatment plan for these conditions. Since diet and mood are related, eating a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grain products, lean meats, and low-fat milk products is a good choice for people who want to feel better from the inside out. Staying well hydrated by drinking enough water and avoiding caffeine and alcohol can help to restore a sense of well-being over time.