The food you eat affects your mental health as well as your physical well-being. A bad diet can be one of the causes of depression on food swings. A healthy diet, on the other hand, may be enough to lift your spirits without the need for medication and counseling.
Nutrition may not be the whole answer, but there is evidence that diet can affect the balance of mental and physical well being. Many experts now believe that drugs and medication are not always the solution to mild depression and a positive self-help approach can be beneficial in many cases.
Restoring The Balance
Depression is closely connected with the food you eat. People who are depressed often lose their appetite, feel too low to cook, and eat junk food. A vicious circle develops poor eating habits lead to nutritional deficiencies which then increase feelings of depression. Doctors have discovered that many people who suffer from depression are also lacking in particular nutrients.
Eating foods rich in these missing nutrients, combined with lifestyle changes and regular exercise, can produce significant improvements in people suffering from mild to moderate depression. Sometimes, better results have been achieved than with prescribed antidepressants.
Foods to beat the blues
If you are feeling depressed, your first priority should be to eat a nutritionally balanced diet. You should also increase your intake of the following nutrients, which have been linked with depression.
The B vitamins People who are depressed tend to have lower levels of vitamin B6, which is needed for the production of serotonin, the brain chemical that lifts mood. Low levels of vitamins B12, B2 (riboflavin) and folic acid can also cause depression. To boost your B vitamins, eat lean meat and poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, soya beans, bananas, low-fat dairy produce, fortified cereals and leafy green vegetables.
Vitamin C: is also depleted in people suffering from depression. Eat plenty of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables: citrus fruit, strawberries, guavas, kiwifruit, blackcurrants and peppers are excellent sources.
Iron: A deficiency in iron may lead to depression. Iron is also essential in the production of the brain chemical serotonin. Women who take the birth-control pill are more prone to depression if their iron levels are low. Foods rich in iron include red meat, egg yolk, liver, red kidney beans, chickpeas, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereal, nuts, pulses and green leafy vegetables. But if you are pregnant or trying to conceive you should not eat liver.
Selenium: People who are deficient in the antioxidant mineral selenium also experience feelings of depression and anxiety. Selenium is found in meat, fish and shellfish, whole grains, avocados and dairy produce.
Zinc: Essential for the body to convert tryptophan into serotonin. Zinc is found in oysters, red meat, poultry, eggs, dairy foods, peanuts and sunflower seeds.
Other minerals that help to fight depression include magnesium and manganese. These are found in wholegrains, pulses, dried figs, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Omega-3 fatty acids Research is still in its early stages, but depression has been linked to omega-3 deficiency. Scientists suggest that these fatty acids may be able to suppress the signals that are responsible for sudden mood changes. Omega-3 oils may offer new possibilities for treating manic depression. Oily fish such as salmon, herrings, mackerel, tuna and sardines are the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Refresh your spirits with fennel. With its delicate aniseed flavor and crunchy texture, it is a perfect accompaniment to fish, boosts your body’s supplies of antioxidants, and fortifies your immune system.
The role of antioxidants
As well as helping to prevent disease such as cancer, antioxidants may be useful for helping people who are vulnerable to bouts of depression. This has been highlighted in recent studies. Vitamin C in particular can help those with mood disorders. After two years of taking supplements of antioxidant nutrients, patients were found to be significantly less depressed than those who were taking a placebo.
Eat small, regular meals to keep your blood sugar levels on an even level and avoid high sugary snacks. Instead, try snacking on unsalted popcorn or pretzels, home-made ice lollipops made with real fruit, crumpets with yeast extract or peanut butter, and muffins with high-fruit jam.
In addition, you may want to try the following ideas:
- Eating one or two ripe bananas a day can increase levels if the mood enhancing chemical serotonin.
- If you dislike oily fish, take a daily fish oil supplement.
- Just one Brazil nut a day can help to make you feel good. They are a very good source of selenium.
- Use more chilies in your cooking: capsaicin, the substance which makes chilies hot, stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s ‘feel good’ chemicals.
Though nutritional deficiencies are common in people suffering from depression, these are not always the result of unwise eating habits. Alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes are very efficient at stealing nutrients from the body. An excess of these stimulants (they are also called antinutrients), has been linked with depression and low mental energy.
Cigarettes Smoking lowers vitamin C levels in the body, and this can contribute to depression. In addition, it interferes with serotonin receptors in the brain, making them less sensitive to the mood-enhancing serotonin that is available.
Alcohol is a depressant- it interferes with the brain-cell processes and disrupts sleep. It also produces a fall in blood sugar levels, resulting in cravings for sweet, sugary foods. The subsequent extremes of high and low blood sugar levels tend to aggravate any emotional problems.
Caffeine is a mood enhancer, so it can make matters worse for those susceptible to anxiety and mood swings. The combination of caffeine and refined sugar seems to cause even more dramatic mood changes.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.