Plant-based diets and exercise can treat moderate to severe depression and anxiety

Countless studies have proven that following a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help maintain your physical health. But according to a study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, a plant-based diet and physical activity can also help individuals with anxiety and depression.

Diet, exercise, and your mental health

The researchers involved in this group study set out to determine how an intervention of diet, lifestyle, and behavior modification can help improve the mental health of participants.

The 12-week study focused on the effects of a plant-based diet, daily exercise, and mindfulness techniques on 500 male and female adult participants who were diagnosed with chronic moderate to severe depression and anxiety and other conditions. Once the study concluded after 12 weeks, the researchers examined the health outcomes of the participants via self-reported diary entries.

The findings revealed that:

  • An intervention that included a plant-based diet, regular exercise, lifestyle and behavior modification can offer significant benefits for individuals who have moderate to severe depression and anxiety.
  • An intervention made up of a plant-based diet, exercise, lifestyle and behavior modification can greatly benefit people who suffer from health conditions such as fatigue, insomnia, and pain.
  • Following a complementary behavior modification program, partnered with conventional weight loss and hypertension protocols, may also offer considerable health benefits for individuals who have anxiety and depression. (Related: There is a direct link between eating raw fruits and vegetables and your mood — this is the easiest way to avoid depression.)

After analyzing the self-reported diary entries from the participants, the authors determined that there were notable improvements in anxiety, depression, and all other conditions addressed by the study. Most of the participants reported substantial benefits after they made several lifestyle changes. After six months, the researchers checked up on the participants and they discovered that these benefits persisted in most of them.

The researchers concluded that based on the findings, “an intervention of diet, exercise, lifestyle and behavior modification may provide considerable benefits for moderate to severe depression and anxiety as well as other conditions.

Foods that can boost your mood

If you have anxiety or depression, consider eating some of these foods to address your symptoms and improve your mood:

  • Fish – Oily wild-caught fish like mackerel, salmon, sardines, trout, and fresh tuna can help fight depression because they are full of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help to build connections between brain cells and they can build and strengthen the receptor sites for neurotransmitters. Boosting your omega-3 levels can boost serotonin production and improve your mood.
  • Nuts – Nuts likes Brazil nuts, cashews, and hazelnuts can also boost your omega-3 levels. However, walnuts are the best kind of nut to eat if you want to support overall brain health because they are one of the highest plant-based sources of omega-3s.
  • Poultry – Both chicken and turkey are great sources of lean protein that can stabilize blood sugar levels. This keeps your mood well-balanced. Chicken and turkey are rich in tryptophan, which helps create serotonin that maintains healthy sleep and a balanced mood.
  • Seeds – If you have depression, eat more chia seeds and flaxseed. These two types of seeds are also rich in omega-3s.
  • Vegetables – Leafy green vegetables contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the three main types of omega-3s. Sources include Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach, and watercress. Dark leafy greens have folate, fiber, and other nutrients that can boost and stabilize mood.

You can read more articles about natural ways to deal with anxiety and depression at

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