World Health Organization has reported depression as the leading cause of disability worldwide. If you suffer from depression, trying to better your mental health is the best way you can recover. One of the ways you can do so is through your diet. There are foods you can eat to fight depression.
Depression is something that is often out of our control. Being a by-product of the tumultuous events in our life, it is not impossible to treat it. See professional help and consume prescribed medicines. What you eat and drink can also aid in the recovery of your mental state.
Here are 5 foods to fight depression
1. Fish Oil
People with lower omega-3 fats intake experience more symptoms of depression. Out of the three main omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA are the ones that are able to help with depression. Low EPA relates to more aggressive behavior. People with minor depression and postpartum depression had low EPA and DHA levels.
Fish oil is a primary source of omega-3 fatty acids. Fishes help the neurotransmitters (especially serotonin) in your brain work more effectively. It is beneficial for improving your mood.
Nuts are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Walnut contains the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts improve cognition, memory, and overall brain health in older adults.
Another kind of nuts that have been famous for anti-depressive properties is cashews. Dr. Saul once said that two handfuls of cashews are equal to a dose of the antidepressant med Prozac. Cashews contain a lot of tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes the production of serotonin (the neurotransmitter that helps control your mood).
Nuts are rich in selenium. Another research showed that the mineral called selenium reduces anxiety. They also found people who consumed less selenium had a poor mood. You can find Selenium in an abundant amount in brazil nuts.
Other foods that contain a high level of selenium are seafood and organ meats. Grains, poultry, and dairy products also contain a good amount of selenium. Those include cereal, bread, milk, and yogurt.
Have you ever heard of the saying “A banana a day keeps the therapist away”? You haven’t because such a saying does not actually exist but it should. There has been a lot of talk about bananas allegedly being able to improve your mood. It is especially when you consume it on a daily basis.
What in this yellow fruit makes it so famously good for people with depression? It turns out that just like cashews, bananas are rich in serotonin. Serotonin level is the key to battling depression. A lot of antidepressant medicines are actually made to increase serotonin levels.
Bananas also contain a lot of dopamine. Along with endorphin, dopamine is famous for its connection to happiness. Being linked to feelings of pride and motivation, dopamine plays a part in our feelings and moods. Read more about 20 natural ways to boost the mood here.
Known as a superfood (in the case of Popeye), spinach has a lot of properties for our health. Ranging from promoting skin and hair health to giving strength to our bones, this green vegetable reduces the risk of a lot of formidable diseases such as cancer and anemia. Its high content of iron, vitamins, and minerals are often cited in many health journals. Some studies suggested that spinach is also good to fight depression.
One research in Korea found the correlation between depression and three extracts from spinach: frozen powder (FP), water extract (WE), and ethanol extract (EE). Consumption of those extracts reduces blood corticosterone (CORT) levels. It is in turn reduce depressive behavior. The folic acid and flavonoids in spinach also have an anti-depressive effect.
This is where things take an interesting turn. Unlike with the four foods we have listed above, we are not going to talk about things found in probiotic foods that can boost the production of our feel-good neurotransmitters. In fact, the connection between probiotic foods and our mental health is a bit “far-fetched”—for lack of better wording—but considerably important.
Serotonin is an important part of improving our mood. It is helping in combatting depression. As it turns out, the body synthesizes this neurotransmitter in the gut. A study actually found that depressed people have inflammation in their gut. Imbalanced microbial in the gut is linked to anxiety and other mental illnesses.
This is where probiotics come in. Consuming probiotic foods help restore microbial balance in the gut. Patients with gut inflammation have been treated with probiotics. Their gut health improved, hence promoting serotonin synthesis. Some researchers have even compared the effects of probiotics on antidepressants. The result was similar.
Any probiotic is good to improve your mental health. You can try the more western yogurt, buttermilk, pickles, and sauerkraut. You can also try the eastern type of fermented foods such as tempeh, kefir, kimchi, and miso.
Tempeh | Source: Unsplash
Those are the foods that are good to fight depression. Along with those 5, remember to keep a balanced meal and a healthy lifestyle.
Adding some beneficiary foods to your diet is very important. Eliminating the consumption of the bad stuff is as important, if not more important.
We often put many things in our system because it tastes good in our mouth. In reality, it does more damage than good to the body. It is possible to think that comfort foods that taste good are good for your mental well-being. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
Here are some foods that people with depression should avoid
Chocolate is a portion of worldwide famous comfort food that people eat when they are in stress. After an exhausting day, people often stop by a convenience store on their way home to buy a chocolate bar. Cocoa itself is indeed good to relieve some of your anxiety. It is the sugar contained in milk chocolate bars that causes more harm to your mental well-being.
When you eat something sweet, you might get that “sugar rush” feeling. You feel that your mood has been lifted. Unfortunately, this is only a temporary effect. The long-term effects are far more sinister. Too much sugar intake heightens the risk of mood disorder.
You will experience high rush for a few moments, as your body secretes endorphins and dopamine. But after that, your body needs to rebalance your hormones. Your body significantly slowing down the secretion of those “happy hormones”. It will lead you to a starker mood for the rest of the day. If this goes on for a long time, your brain will suffer from an imbalance that leads to depression.
Too much sugar also leads to addiction. Do you know that craving for sugar you so often feel? The sensation we get from sugar is like the high we feel from substances like cocaine. For people who are already used to consume a high amount of sugar, a sudden withdrawal from sugar can lead to feelings of anxiety and fatigue. It is better to lessen the amount of sugar you consume little by little to the advised intake.
The suggested intake for men is 9 teaspoons a day and 6 for women. This is already including the sugar you get from carbs, fruits, and all foods that contain sugar. Choose natural sugars from fruits and vegetables, instead of consuming refined sugar (in soda and refined carbs).
2. Trans fatty acids
Artificial trans fats are infamous for their effect on our heart and weight. Usually, it is coming in the form of hydrogenated oils. You can find it in fried foods, margarine, and packages snacks. Trans fats are also harmful to your mental health.
Countless studies have proved the correlation between trans fat and mental health, including this study done in Spain. It showed that people who consumed more trans fat had an increase of depression as high as 48%.
At this point in life you probably already know that drinking your sorrows away is not a good move. People around the world that turn to alcohol whenever they feel down often end up throwing their life away as they become addicted. Addiction aside, there’s more about alcohol that makes it bad for people who struggle with depression.
Alcohol is a depressant. This means that it changes the balance of chemicals in your brain and nervous system. Even though when you first take a sip it will make you feel at ease, just like with sugar after the high comes the drop. As it messes with the chemicals in your brain, it makes your serotonin level first sky-high and then reduces significantly. This can make you feel even more jittery and anxious than you were before.
If you are not ready to cope with your problems and continuously run back to alcohol to forget your problems, your anxiety whenever you’re not drunk will continue to grow. You will feel reliance on alcohol to “fix” your mood, ending up with alcohol addiction. On the flip side, this is also why it’s okay to get your occasional drink, just remember to be responsible and still face your problems.
It should also be noted that mixing depression prescribed medicines and alcohol is something you should not do. While there are some anti-depressants that can be consumed along with alcohol, a lot of meds for depression when mixed with alcohol will increase the risk of overdose and drug poisoning, so remember to always ask your doctor first.
Now it has become pretty clear that the foods listed as “bad” for your mental health are the ones also considered harmful to your body. So listen to what your body is telling you. Your body is constantly giving out signs. Carefully acknowledge that nausea feel you get after eating too much junk food. Feel the state of your body before you finish off that dessert.
It is not to suggest that a few tweaks in your diet can cure your depression in an instant. As depression is a complex condition with various causes, there is no one sure way to deal with it. This diet plan is only a supplement to your journey to an improved mental health. If you suffer from depression, it is best that you look for professional medical help. Don’t be afraid to speak up and seek help.