Beat Depression & Anxiety With Food
Better Nutrition|September 2021
Looking at a menu or perusing the contents of your fridge, you probably don’t wonder, “How will this affect my mood?” But maybe you should.
Por Vera Tweed

“Good nutrition is the foundation of good moods,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, author of Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety. As a clinician and researcher, he’s worked tirelessly to identify the top vitamins and minerals for mental fitness—and the best foods to eat to make sure you’re getting plenty of them.

“When we eat a lot of processed food, we don’t feel as well, we don’t feel as energized, we feel sleepier or more sad,” says Ramsey. Studies that tracked over 20,000 people have found that those who eat the most fast food or other types of processed food are up to 40 percent more likely to develop depression, and more likely to feel anxious.

“With a healthier, more traditional type of diet, people tend to feel more energized, and to feel better and do better,” says Ramsey. Not only can the right foods perk anyone up, but studies show that they can also relieve symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety.

12 Mood Boosting Vitamins and Minerals

Ramsey’s list of the top 12 nutrients for mental wellness looks like a multivitamin label: vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, and C, plus folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, selenium, and omega-3s. Probiotics are also essential for a healthy gut. But Ramsey emphasizes foods over supplements.

Nutrient-rich foods provide fiber and many other beneficial substances in addition to vitamins and minerals. And when you eat the right foods, you aren’t eating things that depress mood and contribute to stress and anxiety.

Where to Start

Making and maintaining one small change at a time is a realistic way to gradually transform your diet. You might trade pasta, rice, or fries for pan-roasted vegetables or sautéed leafy ones. With olive oil and seasoning, they’re tasty and satisfying. If greens seem bitter, try adding some berries.

For snacks, trade chips, pretzels, cookies, or candy bars for dark chocolate, nuts, seeds, dark chocolate-covered almonds, or a trail mix without candy or pretzels. Or try Ramsey’s recipe for Chocolate Brain Truffles (p. 38).

If you enjoy burgers, try a salmon burger. And if smoothies are part of your lifestyle, try a mood-boosting recipe such as Ramsey’s Kefir Berry Smoothie (p. 38).

Bottom line, food is the most basic way to enhance your mood and mental well-being. As Ramsey puts it: “There’s no other intervention that we already engage in every day that can have such a profound effect.”

What to Eat

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