If you’re living with anxiety or depression, a trip to the grocery store might normally stress you out. But try to shift your thinking a bit. What you put in your shopping cart is actually a chance to improve your mental health. Don’t underestimate what you put on your plate as a way to boost your mood!
You already know a diet full of vegetables and fruits versus greasy, fried items is important. You don’t have to stop there. Add these seven items with unexpected, mood-boosting potential to your shopping list.
1. Red wine
Here’s yet another excuse to drink more heart-healthy merlot. An Australian study found that people with major depression who followed a healthy diet showed a significant improvement in their depression symptoms. In addition to eating a diet full of whole grains, vegetables, lean meats, and fruit, the diet included drinking up to two glasses of red wine every day with meals. A moderate amount is key. Excessive alcoholic intake has shown to increase depressive symptoms.
2. Fat, fat, and more fat
Never pass on those eggs at brunch! It might sound strange, but fat is an essential part of a healthy diet. It’s especially crucial for maintaining mental health. Diets that include healthy fats from egg yolks and up to 3 tablespoons a day of olive oil have been associated with lowered rates of anxiety and depression.
There’s no reason to give up bacon. Foods like bacon that are rich in amino acids are associated with reducing depression and anxiety. They convert to neurotransmitters in the brain that change the signals of depression. High-protein foods contain the amino acids that everyone needs to maintain a healthy brain and body. Just enjoy them in moderation.
4. Sweet potatoes
There may be an association between gluten in your diet and your mental health. The theory is that the damage from gluten in your digestive system allows substances to leak out from your stomach and migrate to the brain, which some could call depression. Eating a strict gluten-free diet is important for individuals with Celiac disease and may help decrease the symptoms of depression. Foods like sweet potatoes, eggs, rice, fruits, vegetables, and beans are naturally gluten-free and great sources of nutrition.
There’s a reason Thanksgiving dinner makes us so happy — and sleepy. The infamous “food coma” tryptophan found in turkey is actually a precursor to serotonin in the brain. Once you eat tryptophan, it’s converted to serotonin in the brain. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression and suicide. Studies have shown that eating tryptophan on an empty stomach can actually replenish and restore levels of serotonin in the brain.
Yes, you heard it here first: Carbs are not evil. Your body and brain need carbohydrates to function. Having a diet low in carbohydrates has actually been found to be linked to depression symptoms. Don’t shy away from carbs, but do choose carbs that have a low Glycemic Index or are high in fiber, like sweet potatoes, beans, and apples. They won’t make you crash.
Good news for coffee lovers! Low levels of dopamine in the brain are associated with depression and caffeine can help raise dopamine, which could help protect against anxiety and depression symptoms. Caffeine actually increases the brain’s alertness to dopamine signals. Just like our morning cup of java, caffeine gives us a helping hand to happiness. Be careful, though, and learn to pay attention to your own body. Some people find that consuming too much caffeine can especially aggravate symptoms of anxiety.
Chaunie Brusie is a registered nurse with experience in critical care, long-term care, and labor and delivery nursing. She lives in Michigan with her family and loves traveling, reading, writing, and hanging out with her four young kids. She gladly cleans up dinner every night because her husband is a fabulous cook and she once famously ruined frozen pizza. She blogs about motherhood, freelance writing, and life at http://chauniebrusie.com/.