These Women Treated Their Anxiety and Depression with Food.

Science agrees that food can be a powerful tool for people dealing with depression and anxiety.

When Jane Green was 14 years old, she was walking offstage from a tap dance competition when she collapsed.She couldn’t feel her arms, her legs, or her feet. She was hysterically crying, and her whole body was hot. She was gasping for breath. She blacked out for 10 minutes and when she came to, her mom was holding her. It took 30 minutes for her heart rate to calm down enough so she could breathe.Green was having a panic attack — her first one, but not her last. Her parents took her to the doctor, who diagnosed her with anxiety and depression, and handed her a prescription for an antidepressant.“I’ve had good times, but I’ve also had really low points. Sometimes it got to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore,” Green shares with schoenmed. More doctors’ visits also revealed she had an irregular thyroid, which didn’t help with Jane’s anxiety. She started seeing a therapist at 20, which helped — but only so much.At 23, after a particularly hard visit with her doctor who told her there was nothing that could be done about her symptoms, Jane had a meltdown in front of her friend Autumn Bates.

Bates was a nutritionist who had overcome her own anxiety issues by changing her diet. She convinced Jane to switch up her diet to see if it made her feel any better.

Green already ate a fairly healthy diet, but dinner was often unhealthy takeout. Sugar was a daily must-have, with candy throughout the day and ice cream at night.

Bates gave Green some new guidelines: no grains, no dairy, less sugar, more healthy fats, medium amounts of protein, and most importantly, lots of vegetables.

Green started drinking bulletproof coffee in the morning, reached for nuts as a snack, stuck to salmon or homemade burgers with veggies for dinner, and savored the small piece of dark chocolate she allowed for dessert.

“For the first three days, I thought I was going to die,” Green says about the switch.

But after a few days, she started noticing her energy level soaring.

“I wasn’t focusing on what I couldn’t eat — I was focusing on how great I felt physically, which made me feel better mentally and emotionally,” she adds. “I stopped getting the crazy highs and lows from sugar. I actually have bowel movements now, which makes such an impact on my mood.”

As for those anxiety attacks? “I haven’t had an anxiety attack in months,” Green says. “I’m completely off my antidepressants, which I 100 percent attribute to my diet and lifestyle changes.”

The foods that help and hurt your mental health

“Changing your nutrition can be a great addition to traditional therapy, like CBT and medication, [but it] comes at a much smaller cost and can be a great way to self-care,” says Anika Knüppel, researcher and PhD student at University College London and contributor to the European MooDFOOD program, which focuses on preventing depression through food.

There are two ways nutritional interventions can help mental health: by increasing healthy habits and reducing unhealthy ones. For the best outcome, you have to do both, says Knüppel.

Research has shown the most support for two diets: the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes more healthy fats, and the DASH diet, which focuses on reducing sugar.

Try It: Mediterranean Diet

  • Get your starch fix with whole grains and legumes.
  • Fill up on plenty of fruits and veggies.
  • Focus on eating fatty fish, like salmon or albacore tuna, in place of red meat.
  • Add in healthy fats, like raw nuts and olive oil.
  • Enjoy sweets and wine in moderation.

The Mediterranean diet is more about what you’re adding in — fresh fruits and vegetables, protein-rich legumes, and fatty fish and olive oil (high in omega-3s).

One study looked at 166 people who were clinically depressed, some being treated with medication. The researchers found that after 12 weeks of eating a modified Mediterranean diet, the participants’ symptoms were significantly better.

An earlier study from 2011Trusted Source found that when medical students increased their omega-3 fatty acid intake, their anxiety reduced by 20 percent (though with no changes to depression), while in 2016, Spanish researchers found people who followed the Mediterranean lifestyle closest were 50 percent less likely to develop depression than those who didn’t follow the diet as well.


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