Anxiety and depression are epidemics in our society. Although there are a variety of issues that contribute to this problem, the diet that one eats plays a critical role. If you are familiar with my work, you may know that I encourage my clients to eat lots of red meat and go low-carb to improve mental health issues of all kinds. This type of diet is what I have found to be most helpful for dealing with these issues in my own life as well as my clients and here are a couple of studies that back that up.
Researchers at the Deakin University in Australia followed more than 1,000 women. In this study, the goal of the researchers was to demonstrate that red meat promotes poor mental health, but that is not what they found. When the consumption of red meat was increased, then depression and anxiety were cut in half.
In another randomized study, recipients, aged 20 to 93, were divided into two groups. One group ate a diet of carbs and processed foods, while the other group ate a diet that was heavy in red meat. At the end of the 12-week study, 32% of the red meat-eaters reported that their depression and anxiety symptoms had vanished — while only 8% of those eating a diet high in carbs and processed foods had improvement.
The researcher’s conclusions stated that the results of this study suggested that “dietary improvement may provide an efficacious and accessible treatment strategy” for the management of these conditions.
Why Does Red Meat Consumption Alleviate Anxiety and Depression?
Red meat is packed with amino acids, saturated fat, omega-3s, cholesterol, antioxidants, B vitamins, iron, zinc, and selenium all of which the brain needs in order to produce and transmit neurotransmitters adequately that regulate our mood states like anxiety and depression. The foundation for a properly functioning brain, which is the commander of mental health, lies in providing it with sufficient levels of these nutrients. Numerous studies have shown that depression and suicide increase when diets are low in fat and cholesterol.
When the diet is heavy in red meat, then it is lower in carbohydrates. A diet that is high in carbs promotes inflammation, feeds microbial overgrowth, disrupts the endocrine system and hormone balance, depletes calming neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin and increases excitatory neurotransmitters like glutamate and norepinephrine, causes blood sugar fluctuations, and encourages sympathetic nervous system dominance, all of which has a profound impact on our mental health and can lead to symptoms like anxiety and depression.
Many people are afraid to eat red meat because they falsely believe that it will cause cancer, heart disease, inflammation, obesity, and a long list of other health conditions. But you have been misinformed. Red meat does not cause any of these conditions. If the animal is eating grains that disrupt its omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio, or it is pumped full of hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and additives, then it will cause disease, but it is those substances added that cause disease, not the red meat itself. Red meat that is free of these substances gives our brain and body the nutrients it needs to function optimally.
That’s why it’s important that you choose red meat that is organic and grass-fed, not from conventional factory farms or confined animal feeding operations. You don’t want the animals you eat to be consuming grain or your meat to be loaded with nitrates, preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, as all of these substances harm the brain and are detrimental to our mental health.
The diet should also be void of other substances that disrupt brain function like grains, legumes, sugar, high-starch foods, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and artificial dyes, flavorings, and sweeteners.
Other Factors Involved
Other factors that contribute to the epidemic of anxiety and depression in our society include environmental toxins, microbial overgrowth, and chronic stress. When one addresses these issues in conjunction with a diet rich in red meat and low in carbs, then significant improvements in mental health can be made. This is true for other types of conditions like OCD, attention deficit, hyperactivity, and addiction.
Want to improve your mental health? Contact me today and we can work together to identify the foods and other underlying factors that may be contributing to your undesirable mood states and help you find the relief and higher quality of life you are seeking.
Jacka FN, et al. “Red meat consumption and mood and anxiety disorders.” Psychother Psychosom. 2012;81:196–198.
Jacka FN, et al. “A randomized controlled trial of dietary improvement for adults with major depression (the ‘SMILES’ trial).” BMC Med. 2017;15(1):23.
Sears, A. Primal Plate Trumps Prozac. Doctor’s House Call Email Newsletter. September 2019.
Partonen, T., J. Haukka, J. Virtamo, P. R. Taylor, and J. Lonnqvist. “Association of Low Serum Total Cholesterol with Major Depression and Suicide.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 175.3 (1999): 259-62.