Some researchers are beginning to believe that diet plays a bigger part in depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, sleep difficulty, and heightened sensitivity to stress than originally thought. It makes sense; as obesity rates have increased from over-consumption of processed foods and lack of exercise, rates of emotional disturbances have increased as well. Experts in the field recommend a healthy diet as a prescription to feeling better, and while changing one’s diet may not cure a disorder, it just might help give the lift needed to make bigger changes, and it certainly couldn’t hurt to eat healthier.
In general, the same dietary guidelines are recommended for everything including anxiety, depression, sleep difficulty, ADD/ADHD, panic disorder, and stress management.
Avoid Caffeine and Sugar
Caffeinated beverages or sugary snacks might sound like a good idea when you’re looking for a lift, but they hit your system and leave quickly, leaving you feeling lower than before. This effect produces stress in the body, and will only end up adding to feelings of anxiety or depression. If consumed late in the day, these stimulants can seriously disrupt the sleep cycle as well.
Get Rid of White Flour and Go Brown
White flour is a simple carbohydrate created when the whole wheat grain is stripped of the nutrient-rich husk. Breads, cereals, and snack foods made with white flour don’t have the staying power that whole grains have, and they act in the body very similarly to simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates such as whole wheat and oats are a great way to help stimulate serotonin production in the brain and elevate the mood.
Eat Plenty of Vegetables
Vegetables are full of nutrients the body needs to run properly. They are also good sources of fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar to avoid crashes that can cause mood swings. For those sensitive to emotional disturbances such as depression, anxiety, or ADD/ADHD, it’s recommended that you consume at least 3 cups a day of raw vegetables.
Don’t forget the Fruit
Fruit is a good source of natural sugars and carbohydrates to give the brain the fuel it needs to produce neurotransmitters and maintain focus. An added bonus of raw fruit is that most contain a good amount of fiber. Eat at least a serving and a half per day for optimal resistance to stress and an overall healthy, balanced mood.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Research has shown a possible link between low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and depression. The brain requires a certain amount of fat to maintain healthy functioning and cell-to-cell communication. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish and fish oils, and the general dietary recommendation is to eat fish at least twice a week to achieve sufficient levels of omega-3’s.
Drinking plenty of water is one of the best things anyone can do for their health. Our bodies lose water throughout the day, and it’s important to replace it to avoid dehydration, which can be a major stress on the body and mind. Water helps remove toxins from our system that have been produced as a result of normal bodily functions. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty, either. Sip on water regularly; once you feel thirsty, your body has already become dehydrated.
These are some basic indications for a healthy diet that should be followed by anyone. For those dealing with emotional disturbances, it is also important to weed out the possibility of any food allergies that may be contributing factors in mental disorders. Some depressed people find that they cannot consume foods containing wheat gluten or dairy products. Individuals do vary, so what is right for one person may not work for another. Feeling healthier physically in and of itself can help boost energy and self-esteem, which is important for everyone, especially anyone experiencing anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, or sleep difficulty.