Diet, what to eat to prevent anxiety and depression


Eating can put you in a good mood. Yes, but we don’t mean bingeing on sweets or chips in front of the TV, how much a diet capable of preventing anxiety, depression and long faces.

“Just as to lose weight you need an adequate diet, in the same way we must pay attention to what we put on the plate if we want to preserve our cognitive faculties”, explains Stefano Erzegovesi, psychiatrist, nutritionist and head of the Irccs Eating Disorders Center. San Raffaele Hospital in Milan.

«The diet can act on what Freud called the psychopathology of everyday lifemade up of periodic drops in mood, loss of concentration in particular moments of stress, listlessness in doing things ».

In short, even the brain has its needs and satisfying them makes it happy, as well as efficient.

Focus on these vegetables

To have a bright, focused, well-aging mind, one must follow a predominantly plant-based diet: «We follow the rule of 4 out of 21: we insert animal foods, therefore meat, fish, eggs, cheeses and their derivatives, only in four of the twenty-one meals of the week », says Erzegovesi.

In addition to the mushrooms, natural antidepressantsamong the essential vegetables there are Jerusalem artichokes, artichokes, chicory, lentils, asparagus, beans, onions, garlic, leeks, bananas, beets, broccoli and fennel: they are all rich in inulin, the prebiotic fiber par excellence, which is “digested” by friendly intestinal bacteria (especially bifidobacteria) and stimulates the production of micro-molecules capable of conditioning not only the immune system, but also the mind and mood.

“This is the case of short-chain fatty acids, often abbreviated to Scfa,” explains Erzegovesi. “They tell the brain:” Be calm and in good spirits, there is no reason to be alert. ” In addition, they increase the production of brain neurotrophic factor, a small protein that promotes the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. So we will not only be in a good mood, but also with a more efficient brain in terms of attention, concentration and memory ».

Foods that bring serenity

A strong reason to bring the blueberry at the table is that it seems able to reduce the inflammation of the brain linked to depression and mania. Other berries, too, like blackberries, raspberries, currants, cranberriesare precious, because their anthocyanins cross the blood brain barrier (a sort of very strict customs that separates the circulation of the body from that of the central nervous system) and reach the brain, where they are located in areas that are important for learning and memory.

Other foods to consume often and willingly are fermented ones, rich in natural probiotics, such as kefir, miso, kombucha and fermented vegetables (including sauerkraut, based on cabbage), which counteracts the dark mood, while improving mental clarity. But that’s not enough.

«When it comes to the brain, it is impossible to leave out the glucose, king of all sugars, which gives the right sprint to brain cells: its contribution, which must be stable and constant, must not come from high glycemic index carbohydrates, such as white bread, sweets, sugary drinks, industrial baked goods and fried potatoes, but from whole grain cereals, wholemeal bread, durum wheat pasta cooked al dente, vegetables and some fruits. Refined industrial products are not prohibited but must be consumed a maximum of once or twice a week ».

Finally, let’s not forget spices and herbs: if saffron is the antidepressant par excellence, each of these aromas has its virtues. «Pepper and chilli apart, the spices should be put at the beginning or halfway through cooking; the aromatic herbs, on the other hand, except bay leaves and rosemary sprigs, should be put at the end of cooking, sometimes directly on the plate », Erzegovesi suggests.

How and when to eat

“To follow the biological rhythms, we reduce the time window of our meals to 12 hoursfor example by consuming the first bite at 7 in the morning and the last bite at 19 in the evening », advises the expert.

“And let’s not forget about savor the meal without rushing. We can chew a bite every now and then for at least 30 seconds and, if we can’t, let’s try a home experiment: let’s get ourselves a top and start it on a smooth saucer, without steps, when we start the meal. Let’s take a bite of food and, as long as the top is spinning, let’s chew it calmly, letting each of its molecules stimulate the receptors in our mouth. Eating slowly, without haste, will also help us to regain serenity and good humor ».



1 small serving, 40ml, of fermented milk (yogurt or kefir) mixed with 1 teaspoon of freshly ground flaxseed (via mortar or coffee grinder)

1 cup of a hot or warm drink, to taste (tea, coffee or infusions), without sugar or sweetener

1 portion of whole grains, such as 1 60g slice of wholemeal bread or 4 wholemeal rusks or 50g of raw oat flakes (or other grains), with no sugar or other added

1 serving of jam (10 g = 1 tablespoon), preferably organic

1 serving (15 g) of nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pistachios, Brazil nuts) or oil seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, chia, hemp) or 1 tablespoon of fruit cream shell, 100% pure

1 serving (60 g if fresh or frozen, 20 g if dried) of berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, strawberries, cherries, Goji berries)


2 portions of vegetables, following the seasons and associating 2 types of the following categories: cruciferous (such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, broccoli, etc); dark green leaves (chard, spinach, green radicchio, chicory, borage); liliaceae (leek, onion, shallot, asparagus); low starchy roots and tubers (carrot, beetroot, fresh ginger, Jerusalem artichoke, etc); other vegetables (salads, artichokes, cardoons, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, fennel, celery, green beans)

1 serving (60g raw, 150g cooked, 1 slice of 70g if bread) of whole grains

1 serving (40 g dry, 120 g fresh or cooked) of legumes

1 serving (15 ml, or 1 tablespoon) of extra virgin olive oil

1 serving (1 teaspoon if dry and powdered, 1 tablespoon if fresh and chopped) of spices or herbs

1 portion (150 g net of waste) of fresh fruit according to season


As for lunch, but by increasing the portions of vegetables to 3

Bowel in the forefront

Research has been studying the mechanisms ofgut-brain axis, that is, how our intestinal bacteria, that is the microbiota, can regulate mood. To make the good ones thrive, we avoid eating too many refined sugarsanimal proteins and saturated fats, accomplices of chronic inflammation, aging, anxiety and depression.

If you really want a snack or a steak with fat, let’s consume small quantities: for example, an 80 gram portion of raw steak is digested higher up, in the small intestine, so it sends less waste down to the colon. , where it could make bacteria that are enemies of well-being thrive.

Article published on n. 21 of TipsForWomens on newsstands and in the app in August 2020

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