Some people can't face food when they feel anxious or depressed. Others go straight for the fridge - or to the nearest Maccers, Pizza Hut, or Starbucks.
Unfortunately, often the foods we crave when we are feeling miserable or stressed are the very ones that make us even more depressed and anxious. (See my recent post about this.)
But some food can soothe anxiety, because of the wonderful boost it gives to our hormones and neurotransmitters. And... pleasuring our senses at the same time might be even more important to our sense of well-being.
Samantha from The Little Ferraro Kitchen shares her thoughts and ideas about "food that hugs you" and helps you overcome anxiety, stress and depression:
Food Can Soothe Anxiety
I read a saying recently that said “Food doesn’t hug you” and I couldn’t DIS-agree more. Food hugs you visually and emotionally.
A stroll through the local farmers market is a weekend necessity. I watch and talk to the local vendors and farmers and awe at their beautiful edible works of art. Food hugs me.
I also wanted to consult someone on a more professional scale. John, a Certified Personal Trainer and senior majoring in Nutrition offered a few words of encouragement and illustrates the linkage between food and hormones.
“Stressful eating is a bad habit that can be made a little better if the right foods are chosen. Certain foods trigger certain hormones in the body that will directly influence our emotions and attitude.
Choosing foods that are healthy and that positively influence us when we are stressed, will help during stressful times. For example, sugar releases glucocorticoid, a hormone that decreases the level of stress by relieving anxiety.
Also, a glass of milk contains tryptophan, which is turned into serotonin, a sleep-inducing hormone in the body, which helps release stress.”
So don’t allow food to control you. Eat to live. Savor each bite, enjoy the moment and know that this stress will not last forever.
Read the rest of this article here.
Sam also shares some great recipes for "food that hugs you" on her blog.
Lack of serotonin is associated with depression and anxiety, and anti-depressants target this, raising serotonin levels in the brain.
If you'd rather not take medication, you can get the same results with a diet that gives you plenty of L-tryptophan. You can also try supplements of L-tryptophan. (If you are taking anti-depressants, you should discuss this with your health provider.)
Here is some more information about boosting serotonin levels with food:
More foods that boost serotonin
The food itself does not contain serotonin. Certain foods do contain substances that will aid our bodies in producing more serotonin. One of the most important building blocks of serotonin is tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that it is found in many foods including poultry, chocolate, milk, spinach, eggs, crab, shrimp, pork, tofu and nuts.
It is equally important, though, to eat something that is high in carbohydrates with the food that contains tryptophan. These carbohydrates are required to help tryptophan move across the brain.
Foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, also help to improve moods. DHA improves the synthesis and function of serotonin in the brain. Tryptophan has an immediate effect where as foods with DHA does not have. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel contain DHA. If you don't like fish, there are other products that are fortified with DHA. The label will identify whether or not it is fortified with DHA. For the best results eat food with DHA at least three times a week.
So to boost serotonin naturally, you need both tryptophan-rich protein and some carbs.
Best to go easy on the carbs, though, or you could end up with a sugar slump and alarming weight gain.
The best balance of protein and carbohydrates to soothe your anxiety and boost your mood varies a lot from person to person, so you may need to experiment to find what works best for you.
The best diet for anxiety, depression and healthy weight loss is a controversial subject - tell us your own thoughts and experiences about this.
Does high carb or low carb work best for you?