Alleviating Depression and Anxiety With Plant-Based Foods

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My favorite thing about eating plant-based food is that it has a direct impact on how I feel and my quality of life.

If you’re experiencing depression and/or anxiety, eating plant-based food alone is not going to make your symptoms go away. But it can ease your symptoms.

The food you eat affects your thoughts and emotions and can support the experience you want to have.

How amazing is that? Instead of turning to foods that can sabotage yourself and undermine your desire for happiness, there’s an alternative: plant-based foods.

Plant-based foods include vegetables, fruits, tubers, whole grains, and legumes (and exclude meat, dairy, eggs, and highly-processed foods).

Just in case you’re wondering, this is not about “super foods,” expensive products, or supplements. It’s about simple, whole foods that are widely available and low-cost.

How Plant-Based Food Impacts Your Mood and Energy Levels

Whole, plant-based foods deliver more nutrients to your body than processed foods.  In contrast, when you eat animal products or highly-processed foods, your body has to work hard to digest and process those things, which can easily drain your energy and contribute to inflammation (which aggravates depression and anxiety).

When you eat a plant-based diet, you experience benefits including a more stabilized mood, less spikes in energy levels, feeling more in control of your thoughts, an increased connection with your body, more comfortable digestion, and more restful sleep.  More and more members of the medical community are encouraging people to eat more plant based foods because it is good for our overall health.

My interest in this subject started from my own experience of enjoying more stable moods and energy when I started eating a plant-based diet. That interest eventually led to receiving a certificate in plant-based nutrition from Cornell University, where I learned about the science behind what we eat and its affect on our moods and energy.

In addition, in my psychotherapy practice for international aid workers, I began noticing how my clients in high-stress situations greatly improved their well-being through healthy food choices, in particular eating a plant-based diet.

Plant-Based Foods to Alleviate Depression and Anxiety

There are four key nutrients found in plant-based foods that help support your mental health:

  1. Omega-3 fatty acids
  2. Tryptophan
  3. Vitamin B
  4. Vitamin D

Omega-3s Fatty Acids
Adding foods with Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet is for improved brain function. Sources include flaxseeds, nuts (especially walnuts), and green leafy vegetables.

Tryptophan
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that lifts your mood, and foods that contain tryptophan stimulate serotonin production. Foods that contain tryptophan include bananas, oats, soy, nuts, peanut butter, and sesame seeds.

Vitamin B
Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins affect your mood and energy. Increase your Vitamin B intake by eating more beans and legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and bananas.

Vitamin D
Proper amounts of Vitamin D help to balance your hormones and regulate your immune system. Though sunlight is your best source for Vitamin D, you can also add orange juice, mushrooms, and whole grain cereal.

Integrating these good-mood foods into your daily eating will support you in improving your quality of life.

Keep it simple and remember that adding more plant-based food to your diet automatically means there’s less room for the foods that don’t support your well-being.

If you want to take this a step further, start a food diary for a week to track how you feel after eating. It’s a good way to be able to connect the dots between your food and your moods and can support you in making healthier choices.

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