You are what you eat. But even if you try to eat healthy, you might be choosing foods that can make you anxious or depressed without even knowing it, even when food that can improve your mood might be right under your nose.
We at Enlighten love fighting anxiety and depression, so we’re sharing a list of foods to avoid and which you should have instead.
1. Fruit juice
Fruit juice might seem like a healthy drink at first, but fruit has something important that juice doesn’t: fiber. Fiber fills you up and slows down how your blood processes energy. Without the fiber, juice can give you a sugar rush, which can cause you to crash and burn, leaving you hungry and angry. Instead, try drinking water and eating real fruits.
Even at its worst, fruit juice usually at least advertises some nutritional benefits, like vitamins and minerals. Soda doesn’t even have that! And with all the sugar it does have, soda can be unhealthy and even has a link to depression. While diet soda might spare you the sugar and calories, it’s not much better at helping you to avoid depression. Finally, the caffeine that soda provides has been linked to anxiety. Try seltzer water to help wean you off soda and still get your bubble fix.
3. White bread
If you like to have a piece of toast in the morning, or just really love sandwiches, try to avoid using white bread. Its highly processed white flour quickly turns to blood sugar, which makes you crash and burn. You don’t have to cut out bread, but try a whole grain alternative. Or try oatmeal for breakfast instead.
Doughnuts might be a staple in the break room and might even be a convenient breakfast, but they really should be a sometimes food, especially if you want to avoid anxiety and depression. They are filled with fats, white flour, and lots of sugar, with very little fiber. If you need a quick snack, dark chocolate is a better option: it reduces cortisol levels, which lowers anxiety.
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Ketchup is filled with a lot of sugar and while there are lighter alternatives, their artificial sweeteners are also linked to anxiety and depression. Try cooking with fresh tomatoes and making your own salsa instead, to get away from the sweet stuff. A little cayenne pepper can also help the taste.
6. Soy sauce
If you are sensitive to gluten, foods that have it can give you anxiety or depression. While this is a known problem in baked goods, it can also be a problem with soy sauce. If you want to add some light flavor to your food, olive oil might serve as a healthy alternative.
There are all kinds of processed meats: sausages, hot dogs, salami, ham, or cured bacon. Smoked, dried, or canned meat all count, because of the way they are preserved. Unfortunately, their sodium isn’t good for your mental or physical well-being. Fish, especially salmon, trout, and herring, can help you relax and keep stress levels low.
8. Fried chicken
Fried chicken, and most fried foods in general, have unhealthy fats that counter the good you can get from meat. If you are in the mood for poultry, try some turkey. Its tryptophan is known for calming anxiety.
When it comes to frosting, the sugar isn’t the only problem. Its partially hydrogenated oils, which can also be found in cookies and crackers, doesn’t help anxiety either. If you need a sweet treat, try yogurt instead.
10. Salad dressing
Store-bought dressings might inspire you to eat a fresh salad, but many of them are filled with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Even light or sugar-free dressings often contain aspartame, which is also directly linked to anxiety and depression. If you are in the mood for a salad, instead try a dry spinach salad. Spinach is known for lowering blood corticosterone, which helps with stress and depression.
What are some other foods that help you improve your mood? Please share with us in the comments!