Food not only plays a major role in our physical health, but it can also affect our moods as well.
Experiencing anxious or depressed feelings can make us reach for a tub of ice cream or zip through the nearest fast-food drive-through, but unhealthy eating practices can actually worsen our mental health. There are many foods that reduce anxiety and depression and foods that calm nerves. There are also foods to avoid that may increase feelings of anxiousness and depression. Here is a list of foods to avoid.
1. “Convenient” Foods
It’s a no-brainer that whole foods are better than processed foods. If you’re prone to anxiety attacks, this advice goes double for you. Packaged foods that are high in BPA (the chemical lining found in many cans and containers) can have an impact on your mood and greatly affect the stress center of the brain. Steering clear of popular packaged go-to’s, such as soups, boxed foods, and microwaveable meals will help you avoid heightened anxiety while bettering your diet overall.
Although some items on fast food menus are labeled “fresh,” most fast foods are highly processed and loaded with chemicals, artificial flavors, sodium, sugars, and other things that’ll make you shriek. Visiting the drive-through at the end of a long day may seem like a stress-saver. In reality, the cost it takes on your mental health far outweighs the convenience. It’s a bit ironic that people who suffer from depression are more likely to be found drowning their sorrows in a super-sized burger and shake, yet are unknowingly aggravating their condition with each bite. Be mindful of your eating habits, especially when experiencing distress or overwhelm. Go for whole, organic, high-quality foods whenever possible.
Once again, it’s ironic that the number one thing we tend to reach for when we’re down in the dumps is sugar, seeing as how this ingredient is associated with heightened levels of depression. Sugar can bring about inflammation, brain development issues, and influence dopamine production (as well as our reliance on this “pleasure center” to perk us up). In addition, high sugar intake is directly linked to obesity, which greatly influences depression in and of itself. To get out of the vicious cycle of depression-sugar-depression, make sure that you’re not habitually turning towards sugar as a way to escape your brain.
To wean yourself off of the high, try switching your mind to a task or physical activity that reroutes your attention and energy, such as exercise, yoga, a walk around the block, or even a home improvement project. If you’re hungry, by all means, eat. Just make sure that you’re keeping an eye on your sugar intake while you do it.
The “g word” has become a household name, thanks to the plethora of studies and research that’s flooded news outlets over the last decade. Gluten intolerance is a well-documented factor in anxiety, and can even be linked to more serious mental disorders, such as psychosis. Grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and malts may be hard to avoid since they’re found in basically everything; but thankfully many gluten-free alternatives have sprung up in light of the research.
Those who experience gluten sensitivity may find that anxious and depressed feelings are their most intense symptoms, and can lead to a severe drop in quality of life. Eliminating gluten from your diet is likely to improve your memory and concentration (no more pesky brain fog!), which lessens the severity and occurrence of mood disorders. When we’re able to enjoy a clear mind and energized body, we’re better able to handle the everyday calamities that get thrown our way; and that makes it less likely to succumb to depression and anxiety in the first place. If you feel that you have an intolerance for gluten, try eliminating the majority of your grain intake and note the improvements to your mental health.
We all know that too much caffeine can give us the jitters, but this quirky symptom is far more dangerous than we may think. Between the rapid heart rate, body tremors, and frantic thoughts, it may be difficult to differentiate between a caffeine rush and a panic attack!
Caffeine is known to be “the most widely used mood-altering drug in the world,” according to Roland Griffiths, doctor and John Hopkins University professor of psychiatry and neuroscience. This substance worsens anxiety by blocking neurochemicals that help manage the nervous system. This can make us feel great for a while; but by allowing dopamine to take center stage, a crash is inevitable.
Drinking caffeine in the morning can up your afternoon coffee cravings due to the fact that it depletes neurotransmitters and important nutrients that keep our cravings at bay. It’s a blood sugar roller coaster that can subject your mood to dramatic ups and downs. If you find that the ritual of coffee drinking is too comfy to kick, try replacing your brew with a strong caffeine-free tea. Capomo is another great alternative. It’s a nut that tastes just like coffee but is so safe and healthy to drink that even pregnant and nursing women are urged to adopt it into their diets.
This is a tough one. Unfortunately, people who suffer from mental health issues often gravitate towards a stiff drink (or two, or three). Alcohol may help you chase the blues away and dissolve your social anxiety, but the fact remains that it not only exacerbates mental health issues and depression – it can create them. It basically leads to an imbalance of chemicals in the body, alters your brain chemistry; and affects your moods, thoughts, emotions, and actions. That blast of liquid courage may feel great at first, but it can create a heavy reliance and serious addiction that further deepens the effect of anxiety and depression.
So, let your neurotransmitters do their job and save the toasting for special occasions. A great substitute for alcohol is amino acids and pyroluria supplements. They help alleviate and prevent anxiety, panic attacks, stress, and depression, as well as the symptoms and chemical factors that play a part in these ailments.
At the end of the day, partaking in your favorite comfort foods is nowhere near as satisfying as enjoying a clear, calm mind. Although eliminating staple foods from your diet can be a challenge, it’s necessary and important. We never said it would be easy, but boy, will it be worth it!