Did ya know that eating healthy foods can actually influence the way you feel?! I think this is sort of the coolest thing ever. We know food choices influence weight, influence chronic disease... but it was pretty shocking to read all about the research on how food affects depression and anxiety disorder.
The thing is - even though this research totally surprised me - it makes a lot of sense.
How many times have you said, "I just know it. I have a feeling in my gut," "I have butterflies in my stomach," "I'm sick to my stomach at the thought of it."
THERE'S A REASON ALL THESE SAYINGS ABOUT OUR GUT BEING LINKED TO OUR BRAIN. And guess what?! Its because our gut is TOTALLY linked to our dang brain!! Its so cool! In fact, our gut bacteria actually weighs the same amount as our brain. That really resonated with me. The healthy bacteria in your gut, your microflora, is so abundant that it weighs the same amount as your brain! And, coincidentally, there are many animal studies which suggest that your gut bacteria influence production of the "happy neurotransmitter," serotonin, and affect incidence of depression.
Besides having a gut filled with healthy bugs, avoiding sugar and eating more healthy fats also can help prevent anxiety and depression. The research is PRETTY clear about omega-3 fatty acids reducing incidence of depression. So, if you're not supplementing already, get on that 'ish.
And sugar.... we all knowwww its not good for us. It makes us fat. It makes us sick. And, indeed, it seems it also makes us anxious and depressed.
If this all seems like toooo much info to handle. Calm down. Hold up. Read my recommendations below for four simple tips to curb your anxiety and depression.
Increase your intake of prebiotic and probiotic foods. Prebiotics include legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables and feed the healthy bacteria in our gut! Probiotics are fermented foods that actually contain live cultures.
How to put it into practice: In order to stock your gut filled wit tons of healthy good bacteria, eat yogurt (even dairy-free varieties), kefir, kombucha, kimchi, and sauerkraut. Remember, sauerkraut brands which contain live cultures tend to be found in the refrigerated aisle. I love the Farmhouse Culture and Bubby's brands.
Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Foods rich in this anti-inflammatory fat include walnuts, macadamia nuts, grass-fed dairy, grass-fed meat, and fatty fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies). Omega-3 decreases inflammation and therefore stress in the body and is thought to influence depression and anxiety.
How to put it into practice: Add nuts to cereal, add fish to salad, swap out conventional meat/dairy for grass-fed brands (Organic Valley, Kerrygold, etc). Eat salmon burgers instead of hamburgers! Use chia or hemp seeds in your smoothies. On days where salmon, tuna, anchovies or sardines are not a part of your diet - make sure to supplement with a fish oil supplement!
Decrease your intake of added sugar. Our body creates "brain-derived neurotrophic factor", BDNF for short, is a protein made in the body to keep our brain healthy and able to remember/learn/process new information. Eating tons of sugar decreases BDNF which is thought to increase our risk for depression and anxiety.
How to put it into practice: Use stevia drops instead of sugar in coffee/desserts. Use cauliflower as a sub for rice. Use butter lettuce wraps instead of bread. Zucchini or shirataki noodles makes a great sub for pasta! If you know there's a time of day (such as ... before bed!) when you're most likely to snack on sugar, candy or chips -- put an end to the craziness!! Use adult coloring books, a bath, a mani, a heated blanket, prayer/meditation... any other distraction besides junk food to help you wind down instead.
Last, but not least... Avoid alcohol, since it’s a natural depressant.
Remember that alcohol limits your body's ability to go into deep sleep (REM sleep), which will play a role in the development of depression and anxiety.
Sure, maybe it helps you relax temporarily, but routine consumption of wine or other alcoholic beverages actually increases anxiety and depression rather than helps it.
f you’re struggling with your mental health right now, please reach out for help by contacting the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255.
This information is not meant to substitute medical advice, cure or treat any ailment or mental disorder .