If you suffer from anxiety and/or depression, you don’t have to rely solely on medication. There are numerous foods that can help you feel better as well. Here are just a few of the choices you can try for yourself.
Whole grain foods such as bread and pasta have quite a few benefits. They contain tryptophan, which turns into serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter. These foods are also rich in magnesium, and if your body lacks it, this can lead to feelings of anxiety. Whole grains are also highly nutritious and fill you easily, giving you more energy and less hunger.
Seaweed has many of the whole grain foods’ benefits, being a great alternative if you are sensitive to gluten. It is also high in tryptophan and magnesium, and very rich in vital nutrients. Tryptophan is also responsible for creating melatonin, an element you need for good quality sleep, so your body can recharge. If you don’t sleep well, anxiety and depression can worsen.
Antioxidants are essential for fighting free radicals that cause aging and disrupt the body’s normal functions. Vitamins C and E and beta-carotene are full of antioxidants. Foods with these powerful vitamins include:
Vitamin C: oranges, kiwi fruit, blueberries, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, grapefruit and broccoli.
Vitamin E: wheat germ, vegetable oils, nuts, margarine and seeds.
Beta-carotene: sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, spinach, collards, broccoli, apricots, cantaloupe and peaches.
Almonds contain zinc, which is crucial for stabilizing your mood. They also have healthy fats and iron. Healthy fats help maintain a good, nutritious diet, while low levels of iron can make you feel tired, thus allowing anxiety and depression to creep in.
Chocolate may be a surprise food to the uninitiated. Dark chocolate is the best, as it has no added milk or sugar. It decreases cortisol, the stress hormone. Certain compounds in the chocolate also help lift your mood.
Fish often has the nickname “brain food” because its omega-3 fatty acids help lift your mood and reduce anxiety and depression. Fish also contains tryptophan.
Chickpeas are full of protein, which is very good for the brain and your general health. They also contain thiamine (vitamin B1) which helps improve cognitive function and mood. Low cognitive function such as lack of focus, motivation and attention are symptoms of both depression and anxiety. Vitamin B1 also has tryptophan, as with many of the other mentioned foods.
Oatmeal lifts the serotonin levels within the brain, boosting your mood, sleep, appetite and muscle functions. It is also a complex carbohydrate, so it gives you energy as it slowly digests. Oatmeal is one of the best breakfast cereals for these reasons.
Leafy green vegetables have a high amount of magnesium, which helps relax the muscles. The more relaxed you are, the harder it is to feel depressed and anxious. Cabbage, spinach, lettuce and kale are high on the list in this group.
This list isn’t comprehensive, but it is certainly a good start if you want to better manage your mental health issues. No doctor would ever discourage healthy eating, and if you can feel better without taking medication, that’s an added bonus.