For the Moody Foodie: Combating Anxiety and Seasonal Depression

Zerr, Emi. “Food for Mood.” 2021.
Josey Murray

Written by Josey Murray | Edited By: Aditi Khandelwal & Carol Coutinho

October 24, 2020

We all know what food offers to our physical health, but we often overlook its effect on our mental health. After all, food can be medicine for our overall health and wellness, that includes our emotional wellbeing. In this article, we will explore what we can add to our diets to keep us calm and happy during the dark winter months.

An Especially Difficult Winter

The stress of the pandemic will make this winter especially difficult. Many people experience seasonal depression with the lack of natural sunlight and colder temperatures, but on top of that, now we still live in the midst of a global pandemic. We all need to care for our bodies more and also take care of  our  mental health

Did you know?

More than 90% of the body’s serotonin receptors are in the gut.
Your vagus nerve allows for communication between your gut and brain. (2)

Getting the Help You Need

Our eating for mood tips are meant for those with mild symptoms of anxiety and depression. Those who experience an inability to function on a daily basis and more severe symptoms should seek a doctor’s evaluation. Some may need medication to get them through an acute phase and nutrition can supplement that treatment. Most important is finding the root cause of the symptoms as each cause may require a different method of healing. We support you. 

Reading Recommendation: 

For more information about the connection between our moods and what we eat, check out leading nutritional psychiatrist, Dr. Uma Naidoo, and her book, This Is Your Brain on Food: An Indispensable Guide to the Surprising Foods That Fight Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, and More. 

Nutrients to Keep Happy and Calm

Foods to Avoid to Reduce Anxiety:

 

  1. Gluten-containing foods 

2. Artificial sweeteners 

3. Caffeine 

4. Processed vegetable oils in fast food and processed foods

sugar

Zerr, Emi. “Sugar.” 2021.

Tips from a Naturopathic Doctor

 

Dr. Paria Vaziri is a naturopathic doctor with a focus on gut health, autoimmune diseases, hormone balancing, stress management and resiliency, and overall wellness. Her desire to help others heal comes from personal experience with battling chronic health problems. She offers us advice on how we can feel our best by harnessing the power of nourishing food. 

Dr. Paria Vaziri

Zerr, Emi. “Dr. Paria Vaziri.” 2021.

How can we use food and our diet to keep ourselves calm and happy? 

At the foundations of naturopathic medicine is the philosophy that food is medicine. The foods we choose can have a great impact on our mood, depending on what we choose. Picking whole foods that are rich in micronutrients provide our body with the building blocks it needs to keep all the pathways in our bodies working optimally. When we reach for nutrient-poor foods that are highly processed, we feed into inflammatory processes in our body that can in turn affect our mood. So this winter, prioritizing nutritious food as a method of self-care is going to be important in order to keep ourselves happy AND healthy.

It’s also important to remember that a huge part of our mood and well being is finding joy and happiness in our day to day. So if you are someone who takes pleasure in indulging in desserts, why not spend some time finding ways to make them healthier at home to enjoy? That way you can feed both your body and your soul!

What is the relationship between food and mood? 

This relationship is complex because most people have an unhealthy relationship with food. A lot of people turn to sugary foods and greasy foods as a mechanism of boosting their mood but we know that this result isn’t long-lasting. Sugar gives us a dopamine rush, it feels good for a while, but then it burns off and we want more and more and more. But eating foods like that only leads to problems down the road as they increase inflammation in our bodies and promote insulin resistance, all of which wreak havoc on other systems of our bodies including our mood.

What is your go-to meal or snack when feeling down? 

My favorite treat when I’m feeling down is banana, peanut butter, and cacao nibs! It brings me all my favorite flavors, a surge of sugar, but it’s a balanced snack so it doesn’t send my blood sugar and cortisol on a rollercoaster ride. A good rule of thumb for any snack is to keep a good balance of protein, healthy fats, and carbs for it!

How can we reimagine “comfort food” as actually nourishing our bodies and making us feel not only comforted but all over better from the inside out?

It’s possible for our comfort foods to be both nourishing AND comforting if we’re willing to get in the kitchen and be a little creative! One of my favorite things to do is to create my favorite comfort foods at home but to give them a healthy twist. It’s as easy as substituting a recipe that calls for sour cream with greek yogurt or processed sugar with coconut sugar or honey. I never deny myself of my cravings or try to force myself to eat a salad or green smoothie for every meal in the name of health. I instead find ways to enjoy all the foods that make me happy but in a way that nourishes my body as well!

 

Tips to Promote Mental Wellbeing:

 

  1. Eat a whole foods diet with all of the colors of the rainbow.

2. Try breathing exercises

3. Try some sort of mindfulness practice or mindful eating (2)

4. Gentle Movement

 

Wellbeing
Zerr, Emi. “Wellbeing.” 2021

Share this article with your near and dear ones to help spread awareness on the importance of mental health. Keep track of the food that will help boost your mood and beat those seasonal blues!

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