Food and Mood – Eat Your Way to Lower Stress, Anxiety and Depression

by Glynis Sherwood

Did you know that food can profoundly impact your mood?  Our food quality and choices play a big role in how energetic, calm and positive we feel.  This occurs through two major mechanisms – nutrition and blood sugar regulation. High nutrient foods literally make our bodies, and therefore our brains, feel better – this is critical as the brain regulates mood.  At the same time it’s very important to eat foods that gently impact blood sugar metabolism.  Our moods and energy are at there best with slow,  moderate and steady blood sugar peaks and valleys.

Equally important is avoiding foods you are allergic to, as allergens cause inflammation, and can contribute to emotional distress. Gluten – found in wheat and other grains – is a major allergen for many, and also causes high blood sugar spikes if eaten in large quantities.  If you suspect you have food allergies, you can do a test whereby you eliminate the suspect food from your diet for a few weeks, then reintroduce it and observe any adverse reactions.  This kind of test is best conducted under the direction of a naturopathic doctor.


To stay calm and enjoy steady energy levels avoid:

  • Sugar, High fructose syrup, Corn syrup, etc.  It’s well known that sugar causes high blood sugar rushes that lead to energy crashes, and has been linked to diabetes.
  • Refined Carbohydrates – White bread, rice, potatoes, etc.  Also linked to high blood sugar spikes and crashes, and unwanted weight gain.
  • Caffeine – A no brainer: makes you nervous.  Should be particularly avoided if you suffer from anxiety.
  • Alcohol – Initially sedates, then can cause rebound anxiety, depression and insomnia.
  • Nicotine – Alot of people think that nicotine calms them down, but it’s relaxing effects wear off quickly, leading to anxiety fuelled cravings shortly afterwards.
  • Excitotoxins – Found in artificial sweeteners such as nutrasweet and aspartame.  These substances cause free radical cascades and brain inflammation.  Stevia – found in health food stores – is a safe, natural alternative.

Must Haves:

  • High Tryptophan foods – L-tryptophan, one of nine essential amino acids, helps your body produce serotonin, a chemical responsible for maintaining a proper sleep cycle.  Major food players include raw nuts, seeds and cooked beans.
  • Whole Foods – Raw fruits and vegetables, raw seeds and nuts, legumes, healthy oils from source (such as avacados and nuts), etc.
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids – Highly protective against depression.  A good source is raw ground flax seeds that you can prepare as needed in a coffee or spice grinder.
  • Zinc – Dopamine production, which is partly regulated by zinc status, is a chemical that boosts energy, mood, and reward-driven learning.  Zinc is found in grains, raw seeds and nuts, and legumes.
  • Vitamins B3, B6, B9 (L-MethylFolate), B12 –  Appear to help reduce or prevent anxiety and depression
  • Vitamin D – Plays an essential role in decreasing the production of the protein Cytokine, which has detrimental effects on mental well being.  Vitamin D from sunlight in latitudes above Los Angeles is in grossly inadequate supply, and needs to be supplemented autumn through spring at doses between 4,000 and 6,000 IU.

Need help overcoming stress, anxiety or depression?  Contact Glynis to Request a Counselling Appointment

Glynis Sherwood – MEd, Canadian Certified Counsellor, Registered Clinical Counsellor (BC), Certified Addictions Counsellor, specializes in recovery from Stress, Anxiety, Food Addiction,  Low Self Esteem, Depression and Grief. I look forward to hearing from you and helping you achieve the life you want and deserve!