These Women Treated Their Anxiety and Depression with Food.

Try It: DASH Diet

  • Embrace whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.
  • Get protein from chicken, fish, and nuts.
  • Switch to low-fat or nonfat dairy.
  • Limit sweets, sugary drinks, saturated fats, and alcohol.

Alternatively, the DASH diet is about what you’re taking out, namely sugar.

A 2017 studyTrusted Source that Knüppel led analyzed the sugar intake of over 23,000 people. They found that men who ate the most sugar — 67 or more grams a day, which is 17 teaspoons of sugar (or just under two cans of Coke) — were 23 percent more likely to develop depression or anxiety over five years compared to those in the bottom third who logged less than 40 grams a day (10 teaspoons).

And new research from Rush University Medical Center (which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting) reports that among older adults, those who followed the DASH diet closely were less likely to develop depression over six-and-a-half years compared to those who followed a Western diet.

Going sugar-free to fight depression and anxiety

Simply removing sugar has been life-changing for Catherine Hayes, a 39-year-old Australian mom who was in and out of mental health counseling offices, and on and off antidepressants for the better part of her life.

“My moods would be up and down — mostly down. I had feelings of not being good enough, and some days I wanted to die. Then there was the anxiety to the point I couldn’t leave my house without becoming violently ill,” Hayes explains.

It wasn’t until she realized how much it was affecting her family and that she wanted to get better for her kids that she started looking at alternative therapies. Hayes started doing yoga and found the book “I Quit Sugar.”

At the time, Hayes was eating packets of cookies with coffee in the afternoon and craving dessert before she even ate dinner.

“My new way of eating consisted of lots of greens and salads, healthy fats, protein from meat, switching sweet dressings for olive oil and lemon juice, and limiting fruits to those with low fructose like blueberries and raspberries,” she says.

Giving up sweets wasn’t easy. “In that first month of coming off sugar, I was tired with headaches and flu-like symptoms.”

But at the one-month mark, everything changed. “My energy levels picked up. I was finally sleeping. My moods weren’t as low. I was happier, and the anxiety and depression just didn’t seem to be there,” Hayes says.

Now, two-and-a-half years after going sugar-free, she’s been able to wean herself off her antidepressants. “It’s not for everyone, but this is what worked for me,” she says.

If you’re considering stopping your antidepressants, work with your doctor to create a tapering schedule. You should never stop antidepressant medications on your own.