Nutrition for Anxiety and Depression
Guest Blog by Lottie Maria, Health and Nutrition writer, blogger at Beauty Science Magic, Neuroscientist and Clinical Nutrition student.
I used to suffer very badly from anxiety and remember the frustration of not knowing how to treat it. I realised that a lot could actually be done in terms of self care, diet and lifestyle. In particular, I learnt how some foods were over-stimulating for my body, and I was sensitive to them; for example, if I had a really sugary meal, or lots of chocolate or caffeine (even from a coffee) my heart would race and this would instigate anxiety and sometimes, a full blown panic attack. I also noticed how having low blood sugar levels also contributed to a feeling of nervousness, anxiety and low moods. I decided to try and conquer my anxiety and aimed to eat nourishing, whole foods and ditching sugary, over stimulating foods with minimal nutritional benefit. Here are my top tips for nutrition and eating to boost mood and well-being.
1. Eat colourful foods and prepare meals in advance
- Roast chopped sweet potatoes in the oven with olive oil, garlic cloves and smoked paprika until soft and brown. Mix with avocado, plum tomatoes and chickpeas.
- Try a rainbow salad or rainbow pizza. Mix tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, carrots, sliced oranges, sweetcorn, spinach, avocado and beetroot with your favourite dressing. I love balsamic, olive oil, and ground almonds. Top with roasted seeds or nuts. For a pizza, layer all of your favourite vegetables on a pizza base.
2. Avoid sugar crashes, and keep your electrolytes in check.
I always try and eat foods full of potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc as I know they are really important to nervous system health. I can get mood lows if I go periods without eating so I always carry a bag of mixed nuts and raisins, dried fruit, oat cakes, coconut water, or a banana to help keep my moods consistent and sugar levels the same. My go-to energy snack is oatcakes with peanut butter and chopped fruit - full of sustained energy and protein.
3. Eat foods rich
in B-vitamins, selenium, and essential fatty acids
Certain B-vitamins have been shown to have mood boosting effects in depression, and they also help with vital energy metabolism, which could help sustain energy and release energy from food. Low levels of certain B vitamins are linked to depression and post-natal depression. The best sources of B vitamins nutrients include leafy greens, and fortified cereals. B vitamins work best taken with other B vitamins as a complex, feel free to speak to your doctor about this supplement.
Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids such Omega 3, 6 and 9 have been found to elicit an anti-depressant effect due to their role in neurotransmitter synthesis and function. I often add flax seed oil and avocado into a smoothie in the morning, which is a great way of getting these fatty acids into my diet at the beginning of the day.
A study by Dr David Benton at the University of Wales found that low selenium levels is associated with depression and low mood. Dr Benton also found selenium supplementation to improve mood and reduces anxiety symptoms. Foods rich in selenium include: brazil nuts, cashew nuts and sunflower seeds.
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