The Best Diet for Anxiety: Ultimate Guide

If I’d known the best diet for anxiety fifteen years ago… I would have jumped on it immediately. Spending my two-week training time at a new job just trying to function like a normal human (ie, NOT having a panick attack) was not what I was prepared for.

Sure I had lots of stress in those previous months… new job, new city, new house, and lots of months of trying to get pregnant to no avail. But getting to the point that I felt like I was going crazy all day, every day was not what I signed up for.

best diet for anxiety depression

And that’s unfortunately how so many others roll into their first anxiety attacks… unsuspecting. The sad truth is that many others have experienced this since childhood, especially the teenage years.

We had to deal with this first-hand with our oldest daughter, and I was at a loss. Because I, too, knew what it felt like…but at the time I was under the misconception that it was because she was raised in the day and age of ‘participation trophies’ and needed to just suck it up. She didn’t understand what ‘real’ stress felt like.

best diet for anxiety depression

It took a lot of education and self-imposed nutritional therapy to understand that anxiety (and depression) are highly influenced by what we eat as well as how we treat our bodies in a holistic way.

It’s not a ‘frame of mind’ to suffer from this…It’s a chemical state.

But what many fail to understand is that just because it’s chemical doesn’t automatically mean medication is necessary. I don’t for a second think medication may not be necessary; I personally took it for a decade.

But what I didn’t know then, and do know now, is that anxiety and depression can be largely resolved by lifestyle changes–including an anti-anxiety diet.

Anxiety and depression symptoms

Years ago I thought anxiety and depression looked like people who just withdrew and worried a lot. Now I know better. In fact, symptoms can include any of all of these:

  • Feel like you’re going crazy
  • Claustrophobic
  • Irritable
  • Uninterested
  • Unmotivated
  • Brain fog
  • Numb
  • Chest pain
  • Short of breath
  • Stomach issues
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Clammy
  • Physical pains where you’re holding stress or trauma
  • Overly emotional
  • Sad
  • ADD
  • Out of your body

And this isn’t an exhaustive list.

best diet for anxiety depression

The Gut-Brain Link

What’s been discovered in the last few decades is that the gut and brain and intricately linked. So much so that the gut is now called ‘the second brain’.

Research has shown that our connection has a ton to do with our gut bacteria and nutrition levels. 

Nutrition levels are usually pretty self-explanatory for many: Eat more of what you’re deficient in.

Gut bacteria can be a bit trickier. This is because it isn’t as simple as popping a probiotic once a day. Gut bacteria is influenced by what you eat that you should or shouldn’t, the amount of exercise you do or don’t get, how well or poorly you’re managing stress, and how much and the quality of sleep you are or aren’t getting. 

These are called the CORE 4 pillars of health at TRUEWELL, and they work in a holistic and synergistic way. They can all stack together to work for or against you. Usually the best place to start is nutrition because you gotta eat everyday. 

best diet for anxiety depression

The best diet for anxiety and depression

After being in the wellness and nutrition space for over a decade, I’ve personally been through many dietary styles and researched even more. And what I’ve come to find is that although many dieticians and nutritionists dismiss dietary styles that eliminate some foods… this isn’t always a bad thing like they’d have you think. 

What’s become popular of late is health ‘gurus’ giving advice that you don’t have to quit this or quit that and that it’s unhealthy to restrict yourself in that way. 

I have a problem with this when it comes to conditions that rely on quitting certain foods. Because the price you pay isn’t just your physical health; it’s also your quality of life.

And this is especially true when it comes to anxiety and depression. 

That being said, my highest recommendation for an anti-anxiety and depression diet is an anti-inflammatory diet. Here’s why:

  1. The AI diet starts with the foundation as the Mediterranean diet, which has had heavy research for the last 15-20 years backing it up.
  2. An AI diet goes even further than that to be truly personalized for your unique needs.
  3. It doesn’t normally require counting anything (unless you’re also using it as a tool to lose weight). 
  4. It promotes highly nutritious foods.
  5. It truly is a dietary style meant to be incorporated as a way of life, for life.

How does an Anti-Inflammatory diet help anxiety and depression?

An anti-inflammatory diet starts out with the Mediterranean diet as a foundation. The Mediterranean diet follows these guidelines:

  1. Cut out sugar and processed foods, and instead eat complex carbohydrates like vegetables, low-sugar fruits, beans and legumes, and whole (or cracked) grains for high amounts of fiber and resistant starches. These are the best foods to feed your good gut bacteria (remember we talked about how important gut health is?)
  2. Cut refined flours: These are absorbed into the bloodstream extremely fast and have the same effect as eating sugar.
  3. Stop drinking alcohol (at least temporarily until you know how you react to it). The Med Diet includes red wine, in moderation.
  4. Cut out trans fats and most saturated fats. 
  5. The basic Mediterranean Diet includes low-fat dairy in moderation

To go a step further in refining the diet for anxiety and depression, you should also:

  1. Cut out gluten as it’s been shown to induce inflammation in the gut even in people who don’t have celiac. Those with anxiety and depression commonly also have adrenal fatigue on some level, and gluten aggravates this state as well
  2. Eliminate artificial sweeteners, which have also been shown to have a huge negative impact on gut bacteria
  3. Cut out dairy until you know how you react to it
  4. Consider an elimination diet to determine if you have food sensitivities

The way that this helps with anxiety and depression is that it eliminates the foods putting your body into an imbalanced state via the gut, and starts to repair the gut so that it can function at peak performance.

This allows your neurotransmitters to do their job in managing anxiety and depression properly.

best diet for anxiety depression

What foods can I eat for anxiety and depression?

The best place to start is getting a balance of macros at each meal with the TRUEWELL trifecta:

  1. High quality protein (at least 3 oz at each meal; the size of your palm). Examples would be fatty cold-water fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), organic grass-fed beef, pork, or poultry. Soy is also an option (organic). 
  2. Fiber (gluten-free) with resistant starches (fill your plate as much as possible with vegetables, and then add complex carbs like whole or cracked grains, beans, or legumes).
  3. Healthy fats (about the size of your thumb). These would be monounsaturated fats (olive or avocado oil), a few nuts, or some cheese (if you can tolerate it without symptoms). 
best diet for anxiety depression

You should also add a really good probiotic. But just know that these don’t really do much if you’re not taking them with complex carbs. This is because the fiber and resistant starches are food for your good gut bacteria. When these little bugs are happy, they reduce inflammation in your gut and body.

A good multi-vitamin with methylated forms of Vitamin B is also really helpful as B deficiencies have been linked with anxiety and depression.

A great place to start with the Anti-Inflammatory diet is right here at TRUEWELL.

I’ve personally beat my anxiety and depression with diet and lifestyle, and no longer take meds (after relying on them for 10 years!) to manage this. In five years I’ve only had one panic attack, and it was caused by food poisoning. (And look – I’ve got 4 kids and operate the majority of the time as a single working mom, so that should say something!)

If you’re ready to get started balancing your body with nutrition to finally have anxiety-free days that you’re excited to live, grab the Anti-Anxiety Nutrition Starter Kit and learn how the Anti-Inflammatory Diet is the solution you’ve been looking for, and how to get started on it QUICK. 👇

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🥑 Discover the CORE 4 pillars that all work together either for you or against you when it comes to managing your anxiety. 

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best diet for anxiety depression

*Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, prevent, or treat any condition. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, get help immediately.

What Anti Inflammatory Diet is Best for Me? Ultimate Guide and Roadmap

what diet is best for me

As a nutrition specialist, this is by far the most commonly asked question. And I get it– your dietary style has a lot to do with how you feel every single day.

I wasted so much time trying to lose baby weight after my second and third kid using a dietary style that didn’t support my body type and allergic condition.

It was a miserable multitude of months seeing weight go up and down while relying on daily antihistamines and asthma medication that made me feel like I was in outer space.

I felt like a failure, and I didn’t get why my allergies, hormones, and energy levels seemed to get worse even though I was eating ‘healthy’.

(In my defense, I didn’t understand food labeling or what even food intolerances can do, at the time–that came much later as I completed my formal education in nutrition.)

what diet is best for me

How do I know what diet is best for me?

So when people ask this question, the thing to know first of all is this:

Whether your goal is losing weight, maintaining weight loss, managing a condition, or looking for steady energy and emotional stability, finding YOUR perfect dietary STYLE, first and foremost, is where you should start.

This means a dietary style that supports your conditions in addition to your health goals.

*If you’re looking to lose weight, START with a dietary style that supports your body first, then calculate your daily energy needs and do things to boost your metabolism. Another option is reducing portion sizes, which inherently reduces calories or carbs (or both).

What is the number 1 healthiest diet?

Studies from the last decade or so have consistently deemed the Mediterranean diet a top global recommendation because of its lack of junk food and calorie dense foods, and focus on healthy foods that have been shown to reduce disease risk. This includes heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and inflammatory conditions, among others.

Instead of it being in the shrinking lot of low fat diets, or even a low carb diet, it focuses on fiber and resistant starches (healthy carbs) in the form of lots of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and beans, legumes, and lentils, and also promotes healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, and even coconut oil.

It also limits red meat and unhealthy forms of saturated fats while eliminating added sugars and processed foods.

Other examples are the paleo diet and a more plant-forward dietary style. The common factor is that these are all anti-inflammatory diets, which is what TRUEWELL is all about.

what diet is best for me

How do I know what diet is best for me?

Most people want to know this as if there’s a magic answer. But there’s a lot more that goes into this question. Here’s why.

First, every single body is different. Meaning your metabolism is different. Your body type is different. Yes, your DNA is different. But also, your tastes, environmental factors, lifestyle, and habits are all so very different!

So what I aim to do is give you some guidance on where to start based on what your goals are. Then you can further research different dietary styles with the resources listed below.

And keep in mind that many people have more than one health issue that needs to be addressed with diet. When you’re looking at your issues, notice recurring dietary style recommendations. These are where you should start.

But I cannot stress enough 2 important things:

1) EATING CLEAN will do more for you right off the bat than counting anything. If you’re eating starchy or sugary junk (sugar + processed junk foods), refined carbs and flours, and processed foods, eliminate those first.

2) Finding the closest dietary style should be a goal in getting curious about healing your condition and managing inflammation with food. This will make it easier to find recipes.

3) It will probably require you TRYING a few styles to get the one that’s BEST FOR YOU. There’s almost no way around that. But there are some guidelines to which ones you SHOULD try. So let’s get started.

Start with your conditions, intolerances, or food allergies

What I like to guide clients and readers to do is figure out which goals they have based on their medical issues FIRST.

Do you need to avoid foods you’re allergic or intolerant to, pull down blood sugar levels, decrease inflammation, manage anxiety and/or depression, get your gut health back on track, get energy levels steady all day, get blood pressure under control, or something else? This is not all-inclusive, by the way–there are many, many other health issues that could be leading the way on this.

Bottom line is that starting with the Mediterranean framework (or basic anti-inflammatory dietary style), then eliminating possible foods inflammatory to YOU can be accomplished with an elimination diet. This is the best way to find the anti-inflammatory dietary style unique to YOU and your needs.

Next think about your habits

Unfortunately, some dietary styles are harder to maintain until you get the hang of it.

Some will start a dietary style only to quit because they get in the habit of listening to friends or family members giving advice or push-back.

Some get in the habit of going in hard and strong, only to lose interest in a couple of weeks.

And yet others are in the habit of trying simply to see ‘how hard’ this is gonna be before throwing in the towel.

My whole-hearted advice is to:

  • Go into this with the attitude that this is going to be a life-long change for you (and maybe your family), so instead of worrying about if it’ll be ‘too hard’ or ‘too boring’, look at in through the lens of you and your family’s lifelong health and well-being.
  • Just be prepared up front for some work on your part. The sad truth is the diet industry has purposely made this as complicated as possible. Honor yourself by being ready for some work, but seeking the truth for YOU, and being prepared to put in that work up front to make massive gains for your life.
  • Don’t brush off the idea of CHANGING your habits to ensure you can stick to your perfect dietary style. Of course it’s easiest to just keep your current habits and figure out how to work within them. But you wouldn’t be reading this article if you believed your current habits were keeping you healthy. So be ready to learn about modifying or eliminating habits when it comes to behavior change that will benefit your health for life.
what diet is best for me

Which type of diet is best to lose weight?

I consistently recommend starting with an anti-inflammatory lifestyle change that includes an ideal diet for yourself, then working on a weight loss program within that if you also seek weight loss.

Part of this is because once you start eating clean and reset your body from processed junk foods, refined flours, and sugar, weight tends to naturally come off. So if you’re supporting your body’s needs first it’s much easier to just adjust your macro levels within that framework to achieve even greater weight loss.

Since studies have shown that the best diet is the one you’ll stick to, I recommend following the above process to nail down a dietary style perfect for you FIRST, then working on your metabolism.

As far as what works with your body type, some people do much better on low-carb or keto styles where you severely limit carbohydrates. Others do better when limiting total calories.

This is a lot of information overall, and it can be confusing to figure out overall.

So really dig into what diets you’ve tried in the past and how you’ve FELT on each.

Think about your past attempts to lose weight

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did I lose weight in a healthy, steady way?
  2. Were the recipes and types of food easy to find, cook, and choose when out (eating out/drive-thru)?
  3. Did I have enough energy to do my work AND exercise?
  4. Did the diet disrupt any gut issues? Or solve any?
  5. Were there any other noticeable changes (good or bad) regarding skin, mood, and brain fog/focus?
  6. Why did you quit? What were the barriers that made it unsustainable for you?

Here’s a flow chart to get an overview of what this means so far:

what diet is best for me for weight loss

How to Choose a Diet or Dietary Style

Once you’ve explored the options for each dietary style, see which recurring ones come up for your conditions.

And now comes the fun part: Trying different things.

Yes, this is a pain in the butt. Yes, it takes time. But this is the way to finding the *perfect* diet or dietary style for you. You wanna be in the group of people that actually lose weight because you stick to it? Then quit asking, ‘what is the best diet for me’ and actually do the work to find it!

YOUR NEXT STEPS –> Get started with the free 1-Week Anti-Inflammatory Meal Plan below! 👇

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what diet is best for me