If you suffer from anxiety, you’re not alone. In fact, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States. About 18% of the population deals with the conditions that fall under this umbrella.
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. About 46.4 percent of American adults will be diagnosed with an emotional disorder at some point in their lives, so there’s no need to feel alone.
Luckily, many people have discovered ways to assuage their anxiety. You’ve probably heard of many of them: meditating, exercising, journaling. However, you may not realize that a healthy diet can calm your worries, too.
Certain foods and beverages have been known to worsen anxiety. On the other hand, particular categories can make you feel better. Here’s how raw fruits and vegetables can help — and how different foods can hurt.
1. Processed Foods Have Links to Depression
For starters, let’s talk about how high-fat, processed foods hurt your mental health. Multiple studies have found that avoiding them and instead following an anti-inflammatory diet can lower the risk of depression. It’s better to consume magnesium and folic acid, as well as fatty acids and fish.
Depression and anxiety often come hand-in-hand. According to the ADAA, half of those with anxiety deal with depression, too. Skipping processed foods can probably help you feel your best.
2. Added Sugars Spike Anxiety
You should try to avoid foods with added sugar. These sweeteners absorb into the bloodstream quickly, spiking your energy levels for a short time. However, your body does its best to neutralize these levels by pumping out insulin.
Once the insulin has worked its magic, the sugar’s effects will dissipate — and this will leave you feeling lethargic, de-energized and low. You can probably see how this would go on to spike your anxiety.
You’re better off skipping super saccharine fare and eating natural sugars in raw fruits instead.
3. Raw Fish Can Enhance Your Mood
Not everyone will choose to include fish in their diets. That and raw dairy are optional categories, and many people opt to go vegan and raw in tandem.
However, eating fish can further enhance your diet’s anxiety-fighting powers. That’s because it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to boost mood.
There are ways to get omega-3s if you don’t want to eat raw fish. You can also find them in seaweed, hemp seeds, walnuts and edamame, among other foods.
4. Sprouted Grains Can Do the Same
You might think you’d be unable to eat carbs on a raw food diet. Bread, rice and other grain-filled foods have to be cooked at high heat before you can eat them, after all.
However, raw dieters consume sprouted or soaked grains. They’re soft enough to eat and bring you all the goodness that comes with complex carbohydrates, but they’re not cooked over heat.
It can help with anxiety, too. Just as omega-3-laden foods boost mood, so do complex carbohydrates. Specifically, it increases the brain’s production of serotonin, which is the key component in mood stabilization and feel-good vibes. Experts say serotonin helps regulate anxiety, so eating complex raw carbohydrates can boost your mood and fizzle tension.
5. Veganism Makes Its Practitioners Feel Good, Too
Here’s one final piece of proof that raw foods can help with your anxiety. In one study, researchers divided participants into three groups, based on their dietary choices: vegans, vegetarians and omnivores.
Experts found that vegans tended to have lower stress levels. Men just had to go vegan to feel the effects. Meanwhile, women who did so and slashed their sweets intake reduced their internal tension, as well.
Other studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans tend to have better moods in general. If you consider that raw diets incorporate more fruits, vegetables and other whole foods, you can see how they’d be even more effective at improving moods.
Go Raw and Feel Restored
It’s hard to believe that what you eat can affect your mental health. However, research has shown that your healthy food choices make you feel better, both physically and mentally.
A raw diet may just be the best way to soothe a restless mind. Try incorporating more of these foods into your daily menu, or switch to a completely raw meal plan. No matter what, your body — and brain — will be better for it.