Originally published in the Winter + Spring 2019 issue.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1 percent of the population every year. Even more astonishing, anxiety disorders affect 25.1 percent of our children ages 13-18.
Anxiety is accompanied by depression about 50 percent of the time, and the true is same in reverse. More and more people are dealing with the challenges of these two conditions and find themselves having a difficult time functioning as they used to. Motivation goes down, productivity is compromised and sometimes it is debilitating. If you’re experiencing anxiety and/or depression, please speak with a professional and create a team of providers to support your needs. There are various options available: working with your primary care physician, seeking the counsel of a psychiatrist and therapist, and connecting with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners who can support you with natural supplements and dietary guidance. This team will help you navigate the many causes of anxiety and depression which include genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events and guide you on a path to feeling your best.
Nutrition plays a key role in the prevention and care of anxiety and depression. There is plentiful research to support the fact that individuals who eat a diet high in processed, refined, sugary and fried foods are much more likely to experience anxiety and depression. To that end, it is up to each of us to feed the body high-quality, whole, nourishing foods. Not only do these foods help prevent and heal anxiety and depression, they’ll protect the body from a variety of other diseases, too. There is no quick fix or one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to healing the body. Today, you’ll be provided a list of food suggestions; please honor the needs of your body, give things a try, listen to how your body responds and adjust as needed. You are your own best advocate!
A Whole-Food Approach to Alleviate Anxiety and Depression:
- Avoid foods that enhance your risk: processed, refined, sugary and fried foods.
- Avoid foods that your body has a negative reaction to; common allergens include gluten, dairy, corn and soy.
- Select organic produce as often as possible: vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, nuts/seeds, legumes and fruit.
- Select organic, grass-fed animal protein, wild caught fish, and poultry and eggs from pasture-raised birds.
- Eat three meals per day.
- Each meal should include 3-4 oz of protein, a serving of healthy fat (coconut oil, avocados, avocado oil, pumpkin seeds, nuts, flaxseed and flax oil, olives and olive oil, organic butter or ghee), and 2-3 servings of plant-based foods (vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and fruit).
- Hydrate the body; consume 80 oz of filtered water daily.
- Opt for gluten-free whole grains (brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, teff and certified gluten-free oats).
Be kind to yourself in this process, trust that your body can heal and give thanks and gratitude for all your body provides you.
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Photo courtesy of Angela Gaffney.