We have all heard the analogy that food is like fuel for our bodies. Accordingly, when we fuel our bodies with eating fast food, we tend to feel sluggish or even a bit queasy. The negative effects of junk food don’t stop there; an unhealthy diet may also contribute to symptoms of depression.
It is a vicious cycle because when we are feeling depressed, we would much rather grab a fast, processed meal than get out of bed and prepare something more nutritious.
If you are suffering from depression try to gradually incorporate the following nutrients into your diet.
Vitamins and Minerals
Foods rich in vitamins and minerals are the high-quality fuel our body needs. These are the foods that boost your immune system, give you energy. In addition, select vitamins and minerals can potentially boost your mental health.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C does not only boost your immune system, but it also acts as an antioxidant. It is believed antioxidants can help relieve depression and fatigue. Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables. Strawberries are also an excellent source of it.
- Vitamin D: Several studies have linked Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with vitamin D levels. They have made the connection that depression in the winter and fall months may be from the lack of sun and vitamin D, a problem we are all too familiar with in sunny England . Going outside is a great source of vitamin D but it is also available through dietary sources such as salmon, eggs, shrimp and vitamin d3 supplements.
- Vitamin B: People with depression tend to have lower vitamin B levels than average. B12 has been linked with possibly improving symptoms of mood disorders. Eggs, dairy, whole grains, and fish are all sources of B12.
- Magnesium: Magnesium deficiencies are fairly common. Diets filled with processed foods lack the vital mineral. A magnesium deficit can lead to fatigue and problems regulating mood. Whole grains, spinach, avocado, nuts, and quinoa are all great sources of magnesium. Magnesium supplements are also available.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A correlation has been found between countries that eat a lot of fish and a lower number of reported cases of depression. Some believe this could be because of the omega-3 fatty acid found in fish. In studies subjects with depression have reported higher rates of improvement with omega-3 over placebo pills. If you’re not a fan of fish omega-3 supplements are also available.
Carbs have gotten an undeserved bad reputation, with fad diets chastising carbs as something that must be avoided at all costs. Our bodies convert carbohydrates into glucose, which acts as a fuel source for the brain. Deficiencies can lead to fatigue and loss of focus. White bread, rice, and pasta can possibly be to blame for the rep of carbs being unhealthy. These “white” carbs are processed and stripped of most of their nutritional value. Healthy carbs that are beneficial to brain health are:
- Starchy vegetables (potatoes, squash, peas)
- Whole grain bread (check the ingredients, some bread makes misleading claims and add caramel colouring to make it look like whole grain)
- Brown rice
Avoiding Sugars, Alcohol, and Caffeine
What do sugar, alcohol, and caffeine all have in common? They all give a short-term spike in energy and feeling of elation that cannot be sustained for long. Everyone is all too familiar with the crash after a caffeine, alcohol, or junk food binge.
Caffeine may give you a quick boost of energy but can also contribute to problems sleeping at night and cases of the jitters. Alcohol may temporarily boost your mood, but is categorised as a “depressant”, and lowers the mood leveling neurotransmitter serotonin.
Will eating a vegetable magically cure depression? No. What about an entire diet transformation of only eating fruits, vegetables, and healthy carbs? That alone still can’t cure depression.
Depression is a complex, multi-faceted diagnosis. Diet change must work in conjunction with other forms of treatment such as therapy, medication, exercise, mindfulness techniques, and gradual lifestyle and habit changes.
A healthy diet and exercise are still an important, often neglected part of managing the symptoms of depression. Embody Fitness can help you get started on the road to a healthy lifestyle.